More about this song
The song 'The Braes o Ballochmyle' was written in 1785 and first appeared in James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum in 1790. Burns noted in his interleaved copy of the SMM that he composed the song on the 'amiable and excellent family of Whitefoord's leaving Ballochmyle, when Sir John's misfortunes had obliged him to sell the estate.'
Prior to leaving Ballochmyle, Sir John Whitefoord was Master Mason at Tarbolton Lodge where Robert Burns was Depute. The Whitefoords moved to Anchor Close in Edinburgh where their neighbours included William Smellie (who would become Burns's printer) and Dawnie Douglas's Tavern, the meeting place of the Crochallan Fencibles Club (where Burns would become a member).
Burns carried on the friendship when he visited the city in 1786 and 1787. The transient imagery that Burns adopts throughout the song, of decay followed by renewal, silence followed by song, conveys the poet's sadness of the family's parting and alludes to notions of change. And of course, Burns is sure to point to the beauty of Sir John's eldest daughter, Mary Jane Whitefoord, here referred to as 'Maria'.