Baillie, Lesley (d. 1843)
The daughter of Robert Baillie of Mayfield, Ayrshire. She married Robert Cumming of Logie in 1799. She passed through Burns's life in circumstances which the poet related to Mrs Dunlop in a letter written form 'Annan Waterfoot' on 22nd August 1792. After declaring himself to be 'in love, souse! Over head and ears, deep as the most unfathomable abyss of the boundless ocean', Burns explained that 'Mr Bailie with his two daughters... passing through Dumfries a few days ago, on their way to England, did me the honour of calling on me, on which I took my horse (tho' God knows I could ill spare the time) and convoyed them fourteen or fifteen miles and dined and spent the day with them. 'Twas about nine, I think when I left them; and riding home I composed the following ballad... You must know that there is an old ballad beginning with
'My bonie Lizie Bailie,
I'll rowe thee in my plaidie etc. '
so I parodied it as follows...'
Then follows the poem beginning:
'The bonie Lesley Bailie,
O she's gaen o'er the Border;
She's gaen, like Alexander,
To spread her conquests farther...'
On 8th November 1792 he sent the song to George Thomson with a comment on how it should got to the tune of 'The Collier's Bony Dochter'. Thomson replied, making suggestions for altering certain things. Burns, however, wrote from Dumfries on 1st December, saying, 'I must not, cannot alter, Bonie Lesley'. He added the revealing comment: 'that species of stanza is the most difficult that I have ever tried.'
As for Miss Baillie, 'the most beautiful, elegant woman in the world', he never saw her again. But he wrote to her from Dumfries towards the end of May 1793, enclosing 'Blythe hae I been on yon hill', a song he had composed for her. He thought highly of this song, sending it to Thomson matched to a slowed-down reel, 'The Quaker's Wife', which came from Bremner's Reels, 1759.
In a letter to another young woman, Deborah Duff Davies, written in June 1793, Burns remarked; 'When I sing of Miss Davies or Miss Lesley Bailie, I have only to feign the passion the charms are real', a revealing comment on his ability to imagine himself in love with any woman on the slightest pretext.