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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Alexander, Wilhelmina (1756-1843)

Born at Paisley, fourth daughter of Claud Alexander of Newtoun and sister of Claud Alexander, laird of Ballochmyle estate on the Ayr, near Maucline. Burns saw her while out walking and on returning to Mossgiel, composed his song, 'The Bonnie Lass of Ballochmyle'. This he sent her with a high-flown letter of compliment, dated 18th November 1786. He requested permission to publish the song in 'a second edition of my poems'.

Miss Alexander ignored his letter. She never married and in later life Burns's letter and love song became her most cherished possession. She died in Glasgow.

As for Burns, he copied the letter into the Glenriddell Manuscript, and added a scathing comment about Miss Alexander being 'too fine a lady to notice so plain a compliment'. Of such men as her 'great brother', Burns opined: 'When Fate swore that their purses should be full, Nature was equally positive that their minds should be empty.'

Burns matched this song to the tune 'Ettrick Banks', first published in Orpheus Caledonius; but it is often sung to a somewhat indifferent setting by the music hall accompanist and ballad writer William Jackson (1828-1876)

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Robert Burns Store

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Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
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Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

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