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I recently came across this cup and saucer at the Writers Museum. It originally belonged to Wilhelmina Alexander, or “The Bonnie Lass o’Ballochmyle”.

The Bonnie Lass o’ Ballochmyle was Wilhelmina Alexander (1753-1843) who was a sister of the laird of Ballochmyle, on the banks of the River Ayr. Shortly after the successful publication of the Kilmarnock edition of his poems, Burns was walking by the banks of Ayr when he spotted Wilhelmina Alexander, the sister of the landowner.

On base “cup and saucer that belonged to the ‘Lass of Ballochmyle’. To James Ballantine Esq. author of the ‘Gaberlunzie’s Wallet’ with every sentiment of personal esteem by John Crawford, Alloa, Oct. 26th, 1864.

He was deeply impressed and penned a poem ‘The Bony Lass O’ Ballochmyle’ which he sent to her with an effusive covering note. She did not acknowledge it; not unsurprisingly perhaps, in view of the intimacy of his sentiments (and the implication that she would have reciprocated them). But over the decades, as Burns’s legend grew, Wilhelmina would not be parted from the now precious manuscript. She died, a spinster, in Glasgow in 1843.