Lesley Baillie (1768-1843), later Mrs Lesley Cumming, was born at Mayville in Stevenston. Her lasting fame derives from being Robert Burns's 'Bonnie Lesley', 'the most beautiful, elegant woman in the world'.
The daughter of sea captain Robert Baillie of Mayfield,she married Robert Cumming of Logie in 1799. She had a sister named Maria (Grace) and her mother was May Reid. She was a grand-daughter of Anna Cunninghame and John Reid, second son of the minister of the parish, their daughter being her mother. Through her mother she was related to Sir Robert Cunninghame of Auchenharvie.
Mayville House in Schoolwell Street is described as an 'exceptionally attractive and delightful little mansion', was built around 1720 for Robert Baillie and named for his wife, May Reid. The property became part of the Kerelaw Estate until sold by Mr James Campbell in 1914. It has pediments with urns and a sundial dated 1773.
The 'Bonnie Lesley' memorial, was originally erected in 1784 by Robert Baillie as a memorial to his wife May Reid and his other daughter Grace (Maria), is nowadays located between Sinclair Street and Glencairn Street, near the site of Mayfield House in Stevenston. It was originally situated in an area known as the 'Monument Park' near Kerelaw Mains Farm. Lesley's name was added in 1929 when the monument was re-erected on its present site by members of the Burns Federation after it had been derelict for over 50 years. It is now maintained by North Ayrshire Council.
The circumstances of Burns's association with Miss Baillie are related in a letter the poet wrote in which he declared himself to be 'in love, souse! Over head and ears, deep as the most unfathomable abyss of the boundless ocean', Burns explained that Mr Baillie with his two daughters, Grace and Lesley, was passing through Dumfries on their way to England, and did him the honour of visiting him. Although he was busy at the time he rode with them for some distance, dining and spending the whole day with them.
Writing in June 1793 to Deborah Duff Davies, Burns remarked; 'When I sing of Miss Davies or Miss Lesley Bailie, I have only to feign the passion — the charms are real.' His feelings towards Lesley Baillie are seen as a revealing comment on his ability to imagine himself in love with any woman on the slightest pretext.