The Souters of the Wardmylne of Arbroath

Their Kin and supposed Kin in Alyth, Perth, Arbroath & Banffshire

And the Souter Johnstones, claimants to the Annandale titles

Alexander Souter of Gauldwell & Newton (1810-1878)

Alexander Souter, writer in Banff, died at his house there, St Brandons, on 11 May 1878, the very house in which he had been born in 1810 [1]. He had held several positions of importance in the local community, including County Clerk, Clerk of Supply, Collector of County Rates, Distributor of Stamps & Taxes, Clerk of Lieutenancy and Clerk to the General Road Trustees. He owned property such as Gauldwell and Newton in the parish of Boharm and Strocherie in King Edward. A generous obituary of him was published in the Banffshire Journal on 14 May 1878. The obituary notes correctly that his family had been associated with Banffshire and the burgh of Banff for two generations, his father having been factor to the earl of Fife for many years until his death in 1839, but that the family's origins lay to the south.

Unfortunately, the compiler of the obituary then turns to details that, though often stated, are either myths of long standing or entirely incorrect. He writes:

It is not so well known that the family name was originally Johnstone, and that they formed part of the clan Johnstone in Annandale. It is authentically recorded that in 1460 two younger sons of Sir Adam Johnstone of Westerraw, in the upper ward of Lanarkshire, fled from their native district 'in consequence of some discontent', and settled in Perthshire ...

He continues by providing the gist of an Act of Parliament of 21 Aug 1663:

These honest men ... bore the name of Souter for upwards of a century, when, by Act of the Scottish Parliament ... they were permitted to resume their true and ancient surname of Johnstone ... The Act in question was obtained on the application of David Souter Johnstone of Wardmilne, in the county of Forfar.

The Act of Charles II in question, however, begins as follows:

Act for changeing the name of Souter of late used by some of the name of Johnstoun

The estates of parliament, haveing heard a supplication presented unto them be Mr David Johnstoun, alias Souter, student in divinity, for himselff and in name and behalff of his remanent kinsmen of that name within the shirreffdome of Pearth and Forfar, mentioning that the petitioner's predicessor and his brother of the sirname of Johnstoun in the yeer 1460 (as they are informed) came from Annandale to Scone in Perthshire, upon some discontent, and ther attendit the ouner of that place for a long time, and assumed to themselffs the sirname of Souter, that, therby, they should not be noticed for the tyme; one of the breither dyeing without issue, the other surviveing, for his good deportment, wes maried to a gentlewoman, from which mariage proceidit diverse honest men who are groun into considerable families, whairof the petitioners are descendit, and being desireous that they may be restored to their true and antient sirname of Johnstoun; therfor, humbly craveing they may be impowered to alter their sirname and that, in all timecomeing, they may be designed after the sirname of Johnstoun, as the supplication bears.

It would probably not be apparent to the necrologist, as indeed it would not to most people today, that "David Souter Johnstone of Wardmilne" and "Mr David Johnstoun, alias Souter, student in divinity" cannot refer to the same person. This is the first of his errors, though it most likely derives from an earlier published work on the Johnstones. We return to it below.

The obituary continues:

The great-grandson and lineal representative of the gentleman, on whose application the Act of 1663 was passed, was Francis Souter or Johnstone of Hayshade in Forfarshire. This Francis had several sons, of whom the eldest left no male issue. The second son of Francis was Stewart Souter Johnstone of Melrose in the county of Banff, who was the father of the gentleman who died on Saturday.

Here, 'Hayshade' is a mere typo for 'Hayshead', a small property on the eastern edge of Arbroath. It should also be noted that there is no original record that surnames the above Francis or Stewart as other than 'Souter'. The name 'Johnstone' is nowhere recorded for them. He continues:

Stewart Souter Johnstone, of Melrose, claimed the title of Marquis of Annandale, which title has been dormant since the death of George, third Marquis, in 1792. At the election of Scottish peers, on 8th July 1824, the late Stewart Souter Johnstone stated his claim to the title of Marquis of Annandale, as lineal male representative of Sir Adam Johnstone, from whom the last Marquis decended [sic], and 'having taken his seat along with their lordships, voted with them when the roll was called for that purpose'.

He is correct that George, 3rd marquis of Annandale, died in 1792, without an obvious heir to his honours - and, incidentally, non compos mentis since 1748. But the Stewart Souter Johnstone who voted as the marquis at the election of a new representative Scottish peer in 1824 was not Stewart Souter of Melrose. To this point too, we return below. He continues:

The late Mr [Alexander] Souter never assumed the name of Johnstone, but if he had been survived by a son, it was his intention to have assumed the name of Johnstone, and to have preferred the claim which had been asserted by his father in 1824.

In fact Alexander's three sons all predeceased him, as the obituary later details. But, very surprisingly, it would appear from the above comment that some member of Alexander's family, or he himself, believed that his father Stewart was the claimant.

After the death of the third marquis in 1792, there followed years of legal argument attempting to decide the precise meaning of the destinations, as expressed in the original grants, of the marquis's honours; in addition to the marquisate, he was also 4th earl of Annandale & Hartfell.

Thus, William Souter, an officer of the Marines, added 'Johnstone' to his name in 1799 and, as Lieut.-gen. William Souter Johnstone, commandant of the Royal Marines, petitioned for them. After his death on 2 Jan 1818 in London, his grandly-named only son George Conway Montague Levine Wade Souter Johnston (1803-1856), a lieutenant in the 14th Foot, petitioned in his turn. The Manchester Mercury of 20 Jan 1818, recording his death, was in no doubt that William had been heir to the titles:

On the 2d inst. at his house in London, Lieut. Gen. Wm. Souter Johnston. This officer was at the Siege of Quebec, in 1759, and distinguished himself in the memorable battle of Bunker's Hill, where he was severely wounded. He was the undisputed heir to the title of Marquis of Annandale.

There were several petitioners, only one of whom was in fact to be considered seriously, namely John James Hope Johnstone. His descendant Patrick Hope Johnstone was finally acknowledged as earl of Annandale & Hartfell in 1985.

Stewart Souter Johnstone (1799-1846), the claimant

So who was the Stewart Souter Johnstone who claimed to be marquis of Annandale in 1824? The answer can be found with help from the following comments by C.L. Johnstone, after his discussion of the 1663 Act of Parliament [C.L. Johnstone, History of the Johnstones 1191-1909, Edinburgh, 1909, p. 347]:

These were the Soutar Johnstons to whom a monument is erected in the Perth burying-ground, recording the names of every generation from James, who died at Scone Palace in 1510, to John, who died in 1814 - all burgesses, and some of them members, of the Glover Incorporation in Perth. Stewart Soutar Johnston, son of the above John, claimed the Annandale titles at the election of a representative peer for Scotland in Holyrood Palace in 1824, and, no opposition being made, his vote was recorded. He had been an outrider to George IV when the King visited Edinburgh; but died s.p. in Canada 1846. His papers were brought back to Scotland and handed over to his cousin and nearest of kin, William Reid, a contractor in Meadowside, Dundee. His son, William Reid, F.S.A.Scot., of Meadowside, Dundee, presented several interesting historical memorials of this now extinct branch to the Sandeman Museum of Perth in 1904

These papers are now held in Perth & Kinross Council Archives in Perth [MS139]. The 1851 census of Dundee shows William Reid, a carter aged 50, born in Methven, Perthshire living in Meadowside with his wife and seven children, the eldest being 17-year-old William who, by 1871 was married and a slater at 96 Dudhope Street, Dundee with a 4-year-old son William. The grandfather died in 1873, aged 76, his mother's surname being 'Mitchell', which leads us to the marriage record of a John Soutar and Catherine Mitchell in 1798 - banns at Methven on 8 Apr 1798 and marriage at Perth on 20 Apr 1798 [OPR index].

Stewart Soutar was born to John Soutar & Catherine Mitchell in Perth in 1799, their eldest child [OPR births Perth]:

Perth Thursday the Twenty third of May One Thousand seven hundred and Ninety nine years was Born Stewart Soutar lawfull son to John Soutar Glover in Perth and Catharine Mitchell his spouse and Baptized the Twenty sixth day of May said year by the Reverend Mr James Moody Minister of the Gospel in Perth [2]

Stewart Soutar's attempt to become recognised as marquis of Annandale was short-lived. Thereafter, retaining the cognomen 'Johnstone' that he had adopted, he emigrated to North America. He settled in Detroit and was married on 20 Mar 1832 to Catherine McDougall at l'Assomption, Sandwich, Essex, Ontario by the priest, Angus McDonell:

Le vingt Mai Mil huit cent trente deux ayant obtenu les dispenses des trois banes de Mariage par Nous Pretre Miss[? mission] Sousigné autorisé a cet effet entre Stewart Soutar Johnston du Detroit et Catherine McDougall fille de John Robert McDougall Lieutenant of his Majesty's eight or King's Regiment of foot et et [sic] d'Archange Campeau ne s'étant découvert aucun autre empechement au dit mariage Nous Pretre Miss Sousigné avons Recu par parole leur Mutuel consentement de Mariage et leur avons donné la benediction nuptiale selon les règles de Notre Mère la Ste Eglise Romaine et ce en présence du côté de l'Epoux de Thomas Kimber et du côté de l'Epouse de William Kinnealy qui ainsi que les Epoux ont signés avec Nous

[Signed] Stewart Soutar Johnstone, Catherine Johnson McDougall, Thomas Kimber, Angus McDonell ptr. M, William Kinnealy

Stewart Souter Johnstone and a woman, presumably his wife, are listed in the 1840 census of Detroit, aged 30-39 and 40-49 respectively. He was buried at l'Assomption in 1846. In 1897, Christian Denissen, the pastor of a Detroit church, compiled a work entitled Navarre, or, Researches after the Descendants of Robert Navarre, whose Ancestors are the Noble Bourbons of France. He included notes on the families who intermarried with the Navarres. Robert Navarre had been sent to Detroit in la Nouvelle France in 1730 by the then-government of France. Subsequently, Robert Navarre's descendant Mary Frances Navarre married a George McDougall and they had a son John Robert [Navarre, p. 280]:

JOHN ROBERT McDOUGALL born at Detroit, at 6 o'clock in the morning, 30 June 1764, married there, 26 Jan. 1786, Archange Campau born at Detroit, 17 Dec 1766, daughter of Simon Campau and Veronica Bourdeau. - Archange Campau was buried at Detroit, 4 Dec. 1821.- John Robert McDougall died at Detroit, was buried at Assumption, Sandwich, 24 July 1846.

Denissen is then briefly confused but then, on page 282, has the interesting entry:

CATHERINE McDOUGALL born at Detroit, 26 Sept 1797, married at Assumption, Sandwich, 20 March 1832, Steward [sic] Souter Johnstone, Marquis of Annandale. The groom resided at Detroit. Stewart S. Johnstone was buried at Assumption, Sandwich, 6 Jan. 1846.

Two David Souters

The obituary of Alexander Souter discussed above identifies him as son of Stewart Souter of Melrose, 2nd son of Francis Souter of Hayshead. It further states that Francis was the great-grandson of the David Souter who obtained the Act of 1663. But the Act calls him 'Mr David Johnstoun, alias Souter, student in divinity' whereas the obituary has 'David Souter Johnstone of Wardmilne'.

1. Mr David Johnstone or Souter

In the mid-seventeenth century, only university graduates were designed 'Mr' (i.e. 'Master'), and the Act adds that the petitioner was a student of divinity. A David Souter graduated from the University of Edinburgh on 26 Jul 1657; and a Mr David Johnstone was admitted as minister at Moffat in Dumfriesshire in 1664 and thereafter, at Perth, on 6 Aug 1664, gave in his name, with Elizabeth Robertson, in order to marriage [OPR Perth]:

perth the 6th of Agust 1664

In presentis of George Bishop of Dunkeld & Andrew Butter provest compeired Mr David Johnestone minister of Moffett & Elizabeth Robertsone in this parish & gave up yr names in purpose of mariage consignet no pledgis but gave 4 lib i4 sh to the poore

No other Mr David Souter or Johnstone was a minister in that period. The Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae provide some further information about him:

He was the "son of Jean Johnston" [True but misleading]. He was a burgess of Perth. He had two sons, David, a writer in Perth and Andrew, a bursar of the city of Edinburgh in 1685, by Elizabeth. She died in 1667 and he married, secondly, a Sarah Johnston [Fasti, vol. 2, p. 216].

An Andrew Johnstone is listed as a graduand of Edinburgh on 9 Jul 1687, presumably the Andrew referred to in the Fasti. Mr David also had two daughters, Ann and Sarah, possibly both by Sarah Johnston. They were served heiress portioners to their brother David on 30 Oct 1722 [NRS RH8/860]:

Extract Retour of the General Service of Ann Johnston and Sarah Johnston, spouse to Henry Kier, indweller in Canongate, as heiress portioners to David Johnston, son of David Johnston, Minister at Moffat, their brother.

From the rules of inheritance, it follows that there is no male line of descent from Mr David, minister of Moffat. So, if the line of descent given in Alexander Souter's obituary is to be correct, it must indeed go back to David Souter of Wardmylne, and the writer has simply mistaken David Souter of Wardmylne as being the person named in the Act of Parliament.

2. David Souter Johnstone of Wardmylne

In the burgh records of Arbroath, dated 28 Nov 1634, is a sasine recording the acquisition by "David Souter of the Mill of Alyth" of the Wardmylne & other properties at Arbroath, from James lord Ogilvy of Airlie and James master of Ogilvy, his son [NRS B4/1/5 fo. 109]

On 3 Mar 1636, David, at Arbroath, disponed the mill of Alyth to his brother William [NRS GD16/12/124]:

Disposition by David Sowter of Wardmyln, heritable proprietor of the mill of Alight called Mylnhauch, to William Souter in Alight, his brother, of the mill of Alight called Mylnhauch, with mill lands - excepting 4 acres in Carnleith - and lands called Pitcondochie with that piece called Hauch lying between said lands and the burn with services used and wont at the corn mill thereof. Abirbrothok.

On 28 Sep 1631, a tack was granted to David Sowter in Both and Christian Maull, his spouse, of the lands and teinds thereof in the parish of Panbryd [NRS GD45/18/195]

David and Christian's marriage banns had been proclaimed at Alyth on 30 Oct 1625 [OPR marriages Alyth]:

Proclamed David Sutor of this congregation and Cristiane Mauld of the congregation of Pittinbrid [Panbride] the penult day of October 1625 [3]

The above tack is followed by others: on 31 Aug 1637, Patrick Maule of Panmure granted a Tack to David Souter of Wairdmilne and Christian Maule, his wife, of the lands and teinds of Brewseat of Pitlivie [NRS GD45/18/228]. Pitlivie lies immediately east of Panmure's residence in the parish of Panbride; to David Sowtar of Vardmiln, on 1 Oct 1638, of the superplus of the kirklands of Panbryd [NRS GD45/18/242]; and, on 10 Oct 1639, to David Soutare in Bothe and Christian Maule, his spouse, of the lands and teinds thereof in the parish of Panbryde [NRS GD45/18/247]. And by two letters, of 1669 and 1671, from D. Johnstoun at Bothe [NRS GD45/14/153], presumably addressed to Panmure [NRS GD45/14/153]. From these, it is clear that David was resident at Boath (in Carmyllie) for at least 40 years; on 16 Aug 1633, there is a Renunciation by Patrick Maule of Panmure of a commission to sell his lands on that date, revealing that David worked for Panmure - "David Souttar in Both, a servitor to the renouncer", is a witness [RPC, 2nd series, vol. 5, pp. 564-5, no. 39]

Thereafter, we find, also in the Panmure muniments, the Accounts of David Souter of Wardmylne as factor of the lordship and abbacy of Aberbrothok, crops 1641-1661 [NRS GD45/18/1384 et seq.], followed by the Accounts of David Johnstone as factor of the lordship and abbacy of Arbrothe, crops 1662-64 and 1666 [NRS GD45/18/1405 et seq.].

So it is clear that this David, like the minister of Moffat, had connexions to Perthshire - Alyth in this case - and was one of those motivated to change his name. By turning to the Fasti, we can find two further cases:

  1. James Fithie was minister of Mains, just north of Dundee, from 1663 to 1672. He married a Martha Souter in Dundee on 15 Dec 1654 [OPR Dundee]:

    On the 15 of December 1654

    Mr James Fithie in this parochoun and Martha Souter in the paroch of Panbryd (by Testimoniall under the ministers hand of Panbryd) gave up their names to be proclamed

    The Fasti then state, without noting a death for Martha Souter, that he married, secondly, but without any date being given, "Martha Johnston, who survived him" [Fasti, vol. 5, p. 358]. But it is clear that Martha Souter and Martha Johnstone are the same person.

  2. In the parish of Barry, just east of Panbride, "John Soutar", who graduated from St Andrews on 12 Jun 1652, was minister from 1659 until 1661 or 1662, according to the Fasti, and married to a Marion Halyburton. He was followed as minister, again according to the Fasti, by a "John Johnstone of Wardmylne, 2nd son of David Johnstone of Wardmylne", who married "Marion Halyburton, probably widow of his predecessor". Clearly, John Soutar and John Johnstone are the same person, even though the Fasti say that the latter was "educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen, 1649-53". Doubtless, that was some other John Johnstone [Fasti, vol. 5, p. 430].

How were the David Souters related?

David Souter or Johnstone of Wardmylne died between 6 May 1672, when there is an "Extract bond by David Johnstoune of Wairdmilnes, elder, and Mr John Johnstoune, minister at Barrie, his second son, to David Kyde in Lochlaire" [NRS GD45/16/1244], and 15 Sep 1679, when there is an "Extract bond by Mr John Johnstone of Wairdmilnes, minister of Barrie, to Mr James Maule of Ballumbie" [NRS GD45/17/500]. The first of these rather suggests that David's eldest son was also called 'David'; however, he must have predeceased his father, as, on 18 Mar 1683, there were "Letters of special charge at instance of Mr James Maule of Ballumbie, brother to the Earl of Panmuire, againstt Mr John Johnstoune of Wairdmilnes, minister at Barrie, to enter heir to David Johnstoune of Wairdmilnes, his father", in the subjects in GD45/16/1264 [NRS GD45/16/1267]. The subjects referred to include the lands of Overmilne or Wardmilne, and Neithermilne or Commonmilne of Aberbrothock.

Mr John Johnstone recorded arms in 1672 [J. Balfour Paul, An Ordinary of Arms, Edinburgh, 1893, p. 228]:

Argent a saltire sable between two escallops in the flanks gules, on a chief of the second three cushions of the first:

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The arms of John Johnstone of Wardmylne

Nisbet has, omitting 'gules' [Alexander Nisbet, A System of Heraldry, Edinburgh, 1816, vol. 1, p. 178]:

Mr JOHN JOHNSTON of Wordmilns, argent, a saltier sable, between two escalops in fesse, and on a chief of the second, three cushions as the first; crest: a hand, proper, holding an escallop gules : motto, Sine fraude fides. Lyon Register.

No record of any child of Mr John Johnstone has been found. If he indeed had no son, he must have had at least one younger brother if the supposed ancestry of Francis, Stewart & Alexander Souter is correct. And that brother most likely cannot have adopted the surname 'Johnstone'. The Martha who married Mr James Fithie would appear to be Mr John's sister.

We have seen above that David Souter of Wardmylne disponed the Mill of Alyth called Milnhauch to his brother William in March 1636. The next month, William disponed the liferent of the mill to his wife [NRS GD16/12/128, dated 26 Apr 1636]

Instrument of sasine following on charter containing precept of the same date by William Souter of Mylnhauch to Jean Peirsone, his spouse, in liferent, of half the mill of Alight, half the lands called Pitcondochie with half that piece of land called Hauch and half the mill dues of the barony of Alight. [Registered P.R.S. Perth 30 April 1636].

and, in the Arbroath burgh records, there is a disposition by William Souter of Milnhauch to Jean Pearson, his spouse, of these lands. Witnesses include his brother german John Souter [NRS B4/1/5 fo. 169, dated 26 Apr 1636]

Then, from a disposition by William dated 28 Feb 1656 at Muirton, we find that his eldest son was called 'David' [NRS GD16/12/130 - N.B. before David's graduation]; the following year, William is in financial difficulty [NRS GD16/41/380, dated 24 Jan 1657]:

Disposition by William Sowtar of Milnehauch, with consent of David Sowtar, his eldest son, to James Ogilvie of Moortoune, of the mill of Alyth called Milnehauch with the mill land and lands called Pitcondochie with that piece of land called Hauch with services used and wont. Moortoune.

[Extract] Decreet in action at the instance of William Sowter, indweller in Mylnehauche, at present imprisoned in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, against his creditors to accept disposition and assignation granted by him to them in satisfaction of his debts.

In a document dated at Alyth 2 May 1667, he is referred to as "deceased William Soutar of Milhuich" [NRS GD16/42/392].

Finally, we have two further documents that identify William's son David as being the minister of Moffat [NRS GD16/12/154, dated 7 May 1667, and GD16/31/150, dated 8 May 1667 respectively]:

Instrument of sasine following on heritable bond dated 6 May 1667 by Mr. David Johnstone, minister at Mavffat, to Mr. John Crokat, fiar of Estir Rattray, of annualrent on principal sum of £1000 Scots furth of the mill and mill lands of Milhauch of Alythe. [Registered P.R.S. Perth 24 May 1667].

Letter from Mr. David Johnstone to the Earl of Airly asking protection from his deceased father's creditors. Mylnehaugh.

Francis Souter and his Family

Francis Souter (c.1730-1810) & Katharine Gray (c.1734-1808?)

The earliest certain evidence for Francis (born c. 1730), Alexander Souter's paternal grandfather, appears in the Examination Roll of Arbroath 1752 [Flora Davidson, Scottish Record Soc., Edinburgh 1987 - which contains extensive notes on many of the inhabitants]. Although this original roll of the burgh's inhabitants was drawn up in 1752, it has some later additions and deletions. Francis Souter and Katharine Gray (3rd surviving daughter of David Gray, a prosperous brewer in Arbroath, & Katharine Mather) were contracted in order to marriage on 28 Dec 1754 at Arbroath [OPR marriages Arbroath] but appear, as additions, as a couple in the roll. Both names are marked with an 'x', indicating that they were episcopalians.

But Katharine Gray also appears elsewhere in the roll, undeleted, in the household of William Scot & Helen Gray (David Gray's 2nd daughter, born in 1729). A Margaret Mather is also in the household, apparently in error for Katharine Mather. Katharine Mather's testament, registered at St Andrews on 28 Oct 1762, shows that she had made a disposition to her daughter Katharine on 27 Mar 1756. The testament states that Katharine Mather was relict of the deceased David Gray, brewer in Arbroath, and that it was made and given up by Katharine Gray, her lawful daughter, and Francis Soutter, wright in Aberbrothock, her husband, executors dative qua creditors.

Only one baptism of a child is recorded to Francis & Katharine, namely Catharine, on 03 May 1758 at Arbroath, the witnesses being William Ramsay and Alexander Souter. The births of their three known sons, David (c.1755 or 1761?), Stewart (1765) and Alexander (1775) are unrecorded; they were doubtless baptised by an episcopal minister, but the episcopal records for Arbroath are wanting. It is very likely that there were other children.

Katharine Gray was served heir portioner general to her nephew John Scott, a baker in Arbroath on 4 Aug 1786, her husband being designed 'tenant, Dickmontlaw'. Francis was still tenant of (part of) Dickmontlaw in St Vigeans parish, but not occupier, when an offer of a sub-lease was advertised on 2 Mar 1801, following the death in 1799 of Dr Thomas Stevenson, the previous sub-tenant [].

Katharine Gray died before 18 May 1808, on which date her eldest son was served heir to her [Retours index]:

David Souter, merchant in Macduff, to his mother Katharine Gray, wife of Francis Souter in Arbroath - heir general

Francis was buried in the Abbey Kirkyard, Arbroath, on 3 Jun 1810, as the mortcloth accounts show [NRS CH2/1415/23, p. 101] and the next day the minister, Mr George Gleig, received £10 Sterling, to distribute to the poor, from Messrs David and Stewart Souter [NRS CH2/1415/23, p. 100 and CH2/1415/3, p. 186].

The above references to Francis clearly relate to Katharine Gray's husband. It seems likely that he was the same Francis Souter who owned Hayshead on the eastern edge of Arbroath, though no document has yet been found to confirm this. Hayshead House seems to have been built for Francis in the late 1780s, possibly earlier. He put the house up for let in late 1793 ["Caledonian Mercury", 30.12.1793]:


To be LET for such number of years as can be agreed upon, and entered to at Whitsunday next,

THE HOUSE OF HAYSHEAD, with the Garden, and about 5 acres of ground. The house consists of four good rooms, a closet, garrets, kitchen, and other offices adjoining, and had been built within these few years in the most substantial manner;--stands on a dry healthy situation, within ten minutes walk of the town of Arbroath, commanding a very pleasant and extensive prospect of the country, the sea, and opposite side of the Frith. The ground lies contiguous to the house, having a south-west exposure, is of excellent quality, in good order, and capable of producing weighty crops.

For further particulars, apply to Francis Souter, the proprietor, at Hayshead.

There are also newspaper references to a Francis Souter, merchant, Arbroath in 1789, as one of those who took in cloth for bleaching at Mains Bleachfield, one mile north of Dundee []; and to a Francis Souter, Writer and Messenger at Arms in Arbroath in 1796, who says he is about to leave that place []. It is unclear if these are Katharine Gray's husband, though the latter would explain why Francis Souter of Hayshead was wishing to let his house. Possibly, it was his intention to move north to join his sons David and Stewart in Banffshire, where they were both prospering. Possibly he did, for some years, before returning in his last years to Arbroath, as no death record for Katharine Gray has been found at Arbroath. By 1822, Hayshead was the property of a Mr Scott [Wood's map of Arbroath]; the property is on the south-west side of what is now Hayshead Road, close to the junction with Springfield Terrace.

David Souter (c.1760-1831/2) & Stewart Souter (1764-1839)

David had become grieve or factor to James earl of Fife by 1783. On 2 July of that year, David wrote "from Duff House that they had now got white pease milled, and that these were selling at £1 1s 6d a bag. Four days later, he writes that they were milling oats and bere as fast as possible" [Transactions of the Banffshire Field Club, 3 Mar 1893, p. 18]

In 1785, David obtained a tack of Melrose in the parish of Gamrie from the earl [Aberdeen Uni Archives MS 3175/861/2]. He married Janet Milne at Arbroath on 30 Jul 1788 [OPR marriages Arbroath]; her maternal grandfather was John Gellatly, provost of Arbroath. Thereafter, his brother Stewart seems to have become factor to the Duff estates.

Both brothers were appointed captains in the Banffshire Volunteer Infantry on 20 Jun 1803 [John M. Bulloch, Territorial soldiering in the north-east of Scotland during 1759-1814, Aberdeen, 1914, p. 352], but only Stewart was promoted major on 9 Nov 1803 [ibid., p. 352]. Nonetheless, David must have been popular with his company, as "The Melrose Company of the 1st battalion of Banffshire Volunteers, have presented to David Souter, Esq. at Melrose, their Captain, a large and very elegant silver Vase-Cup." [Aberdeen Press and Journal, 30 Jan 1805].

Although that places David at Melrose, his brother had bought Melrose before 7 Jan 1804, on which date he married Miss Mary Robinson, daughter of George Robinson, provost of Banff [The Sun (London), 18 Jan 1804]. David, meanwhile, though resident in the town of Macduff, had acquired the superiority of Northfield of Gamrie, as revealed by a document of 17 Jun 1807 [NRS GD57/1/219]:

Charter of Confirmation and Precept of Clare Constat by David Souter in Macduff confirming disposition dated and recorded B. of C. and S. 6 July 1791, by George Keith Marischall of Northfield in favour of Francis Garden of Troup, one of the Senators of the College of Justice, of the lands and estate of Northfield and Whitefield ... in parish of Gammerie and sheriffdom of Banff ...

On 5 Jun 1805, David Souter of Northfield and Stewart Souter of Melrose were both appointed Commissioners for both Aberdeenshire and Banffshire under the Act 45 Geo.III Cap.48, while on 21 Jan 1809, David was appointed captain and Stewart, major, in the Banffshire Local Militia. [Bulloch, p. 386]

While Stewart continued as factor of the Duff estates until his death in 1839, David concentrated on farming. His superiority of Northfield was advertised for sale by roup to be held on 17 Aug 1810 [Aberdeen Press and Journal, 18 Jul 1810] and he had acquired Gauldwell and Newton in Boharm, Banffshire by 1812, when he published his General View of the Agriculture of the County of Banff [Edinburgh, 1812], a work that contains unusually extensive climate records. He later obtained ownership of Kinminities (or Kinminity) in Birse, Aberdeenshire and is listed as a freeholder of Aberdeenshire and liferenter of Gauldwell & Newton in 1827 [Edinburgh Almanack of 1828].

On 19 Mar 1831, both brothers were appointed Justices of the Peace for the county of Banff [Aberdeen Press and Journal, 6 Jul 1831], but by the following summer, David had died, as the following advertisement shows [ibid. 27 Jun 1832]:

That commodious and well-finished house, formerly occupied by the late David Souter of Kinminity ... very pleasantly situated ...

No record of his death, grave monument or testament for him has been found. It is possible he died in London, as his widow died on 17 Nov 1836 in Hackney Grove there [London Evening Standard, 26 Nov 1836], at the home of her daughter Helen and son-in-law George Hunter, who were to emigrate to Wellington N.Z. in 1840. Helen seems to have been their only daughter, while their only son, James Francis, had died in Edinburgh in 1825 [Monument in Greyfriars Kirkyard].

Of Stewart Souter, James Imlach wrote [History of Banff, Banff, 1868, p. 89]:

He came from Forfarshire to Banff, at the invitation of James, third Earl of Fife, in the last century, and, with Mr Rose of Mountcoffer, had the management of the Fife Estates, which at that period were yearly progressing in value and extent. On the retirement of Mr Rose from the business, the Earl, finding Mr Souter so highly qualified by business habits, extensive knowledge of country affairs, and general intelligence, appointed him chief factor over the property; and so admirably and satisfactorily did he administer this charge that he was chosen Chief Commissioner over the Trust for the consolidation of these estates, which he retained up to the period of his death - unquestionable evidence that he was a person of no common ability.

Alexander Souter (1775-1857)

Alexander, the youngest son of Francis & Katharine, married Margaret Ritchie, probably in Arbroath in 1801. The baptisms of their first four children are recorded: David Robertson (1802), Stewart Robertson (1804), Margaret (1806) and James Robertson (1808), the first three at Arbroath and James at St Vigeans. Two further children are unrecorded: Ann (1816) and Margaret (1818).

Margaret Ritchie or Souter, wife of Alexander Souter, Merchant, Arbroath was served heir portioner general to her mother Janet Robertson or Ritchie there on 2 May 1810. This may have been partly responsible for Alexander going into partnership with a James Robertson [W.H.K. Turner, The Textile Industry in Arbroath, Abertay Historical Soc., Publication No. 2, 1954 (reprinted 1971)]

Inch Mill served as both corn and flax mill from 1808 to 1811, and then Robertson and Souter built here a spinning mill, "lying at townhead of Arbroath ... in the immediate vicinity of the town."

The venture was very short-lived, as by 8 Jun 1812 their business had failed [Edinburgh Advertiser, 24 Jul 1812]:


On Saturday the 8th August next, at twelve o'clock noon, there are to be SOLD by Public Auction, within the Ordinary Court-Room of Arbroath,

The following HERITABLE PROPERTY belonging to the Sequestrated Estate of Messrs. ROBERTSON and SOUTER, Manufacturers in Arbroath.

I. That Large SPINNING-MILL, ... lying at Town-head of Arbroath. The Mill was only erected last year ... The machinery is excellent ... made by Messrs. Fenton, Murray and Co. of Leeds ...

II. Two TENEMENTS and YARDS, lying in Dishland-town ...

III. An annual rent of two bolls of ... bear upliftable forth of ... land, in Millgate-bank of Arbroath ... [that has] been in the possession of Mr Robertson and his predecessors past the memory of man ...

IV. That FEU-DUTY of L.16:14s. Sterling, payable out of the Mill-croft, feued to John Airth, Esq; Arbroath ...

V. A LEASE during the joint lives of Mr Alexander Souter and Mrs Souter, of that Area ... measuring one rood and twenty falls, with the Duck house ... feued by the late Mr David Robertson from Robert Lindsay, Esq; of Almerie-closs. And of two SEATS or PEWS, Nos 32 and 128, in the Chapel of Ease, at Arbroath.

At same time, will be SOLD,

VI. Fourteen DUCK-LOOMS, with Reeds and Calms; a BEAMING BIRTH, and six STARCHING BIRTHS in said Duck house.

Further particulars may be learned, on applying to Mr David Ritchie, merchant in Arbroath, the trustee ...

Alexander was still a merchant in Arbroath when his youngest daughter, Margaret, was married on 24 Dec 1839 at Arbroath to Mr John Kirkland, wood-merchant, Dundee [Aberdeen Press and Journal, 1 Jan 1840], but by the 1841 census, Alexander was a merchant in Miln Place, Forres, Morayshire with his unmarried daughter Ann, while Margaret Ritchie was with the Kirklands in Reform Street, Dundee. By 1851, Alexander was a mercantile agent, boarding at 2 South Street, Elgin and it would seem he was working as a wood-merchant at Haughland, Elgin by 1845 [Aberdeen Press and Journal, 30 Apr 1845; Inverness Courier, 19 Feb 1852].

Margaret Ritchie died at 32 Springfield, Dundee (the end of terrace house, facing the Perth Road and now Category A listed) in 1855; Alexander Souter died there in 1857.

David Robertson Souter (1802-1888)

In 1860, Alexander Johnston had his work A Short Memoir of James Young, Merchant Burgess of Aberdeen, and Rachel Cruickshank, his Spouse, and of their Descendants privately printed at Aberdeen. This work included a note on the "Souters, formerly Johnstouns". Johnston says that the "substance of this note was originally communicated in 1860 by the late David Souter Robertson of Lawhead".

An expanded version of Johnston's work was published at Aberdeen in 1894 by a William Johnston. On page 31 of that work, Johnston notes that David Robertson Souter of Lawhead, an accountant in Edinburgh, had changed his name to David Souter Robertson in 1860. This David (1802-1888) was the eldest son of Alexander Souter & Margaret Ritchie. On page 158, we find the note on the "Souters, formerly Johnstouns":

David Souter Robertson was the great-great-great-grandson of David Souter Johnstoun of Wardmilne, by Alexander (youngest son of Francis Souter Johnstoun of Hayshead), and Margaret Robertson Ritchie, his wife, who was the only surviving child of David Ritchie (of the Ritchies of Duchar) merchant in Arbroath, and Janet Robertson, eldest daughter of William Robertson (of the Robertsons of Mairton, who afterwards settled in Fife, and acquired the lands of Gladney, &c.), also merchant in Arbroath, and Isobel Pirie, his spouse, lawful daughter of David Pirie, merchant in Johnshaven, and Janet Chaplin, of the family of the Chaplins of Colliston in Forfarshire. George Robertson Chaplin, the only surviving son of the said William Robertson, in terms of the entail, assumed the name of Chaplin, on succeeding to the estate of Colliston on the death of his brother, the late Thomas Robertson Chaplin, in 1867, without issue.

For many generations the descendants of the Wardmilne family used the designation of Souter Johnstoun.

The connexion to the Ritchies of Duchar and to the Robertsons of Mairton has not been examined; otherwise the ancestry is correct, except that the designation 'Souter Johnstoun' is found nowhere in the family.

Alexander Johnston's work of 1860 is the earliest evidence found for the family's claim to be descended from David Souter of Wardmilne. It is unfortunate that David Robertson Souter failed to provide the identities of the two missing ancestors that connected him to Wardmilne.

The note continues:

Not long after the Restoration of King Charles II, 21st August 1663, the Scottish Parliament, or Convention of Estates, passed an "Act for changeing the name of Souter, of late used by some of the name of Johnstoun". This Act proceeded on the narrative that "The Estates of Parliament haveing heard a supplication presented vnto them be Mr. David Johnstoun alias Souter" (of Wardmilne, Forfarshire), "Student in Divinity for himselff and in name and behalff of his remanent kinsmen of that name within the Shirreffdome of Pearth and Forfar ...

And there we have the confusion between David Souter of Wardmylne and Mr David, his nephew, minister of Moffat. Was this Alexander Johnston's confusion or David Robertson Souter's? Was the latter gentleman manufacturing a lineage for himself? His father Alexander Souter's testament dative [NRS SC26/39/8 Elgin, registered 9 Nov 1857], designs him "sometime Commission Agent in Elgin" and says that he "died at Dundee having his Domicile in Elgin ... on the twenty third day of June Eighteen hundred and fifty seven". The inventory, given up by David's sister Ann, shows Alexander to have left a moveable estate of just £31 7s 6d, of which £23 was a debt owed to him by another commission agent in Elgin and the rest, the value of his clothes, a trunk and a watch. It makes an interesting contrast with his brother Stewart Souter of Melrose, who had left a moveable estate of £17,351 10s 6½d in 1839 [NRS SC2/40/8 Banff, registered 27 Oct 1841]

By 1860, when he changed his name, David Robertson Souter was: married (1847) to Elizabeth, daughter of John Leith Ross of Arnage; a member (1847) of the Highland & Agricultural Society; Deputy Lieutenant of Bute (1848); a Deputy Lieutenant of Lanarkshire (1850); and a Justice of the Peace for Angus, Bute and Lanarkshire. In 1860, he subscribed to two copies of David Miller's Arbroath and its Abbey, indicating his interest in his birthplace. In 1863, he was appointed Commissioner of the Duke of Hamilton's estates in both England and Scotland.

Alexander Warden [Angus or Forfarshire, vol. 3, Dundee, 1882, p. 18] states that:

David Souter Robertson of Cookston, in this parish [i.e. Brechin], is also proprietor of Lawhead, in Lanarkshire, and Whitehill, in Linlithgowshire. He succeeded to Lawhead and Whitehill on the death [in 1857] of his uncle [!], Thomas Robertson, the laird of these two properties; and in 1869 to Cookston and Unthank, on the death of George Robertson Chaplin of Cookston, his uncle [!].

David was in fact 2nd cousin twice removed of the brothers Thomas & George Robertson Chaplin of Colliston (né Robertson); he had worked in Thomas's accountancy firm in Edinburgh.

It became apparent only after David's death that he had lived considerably beyond his means [NRS CS318/36/282 Concluded sequestration process, 1889-1893], with serious consequences for his eldest son, Stewart Souter Robertson (1839-1898), and the two youngest sons, Thomas Chaplin Souter Robertson (1853-1943) (alias Thomas Robertson Chaplin) and George Chaplin Souter Robertson (1857-1923) (alias George Robertson Chaplin). Stewart, having been sequestrated twice, in 1874 and 1890, worked as clerk to the L.N.W.R. in London, and died "virtually penniless" in Penzance; Thomas and George were both sequestrated in 1890 [For detailed discussion, see Thomas A. Lee, Accounting Historians Journal, v. 36, pp. 75-92, 2009].

Was Francis Souter the great-grandson of David Souter of Wardmylne?

This page has been written using only online resources. Without access to the Register of Sasines and other original records, there seems little prospect of proving Francis's descent. David was married in 1625, Francis in 1754, so the average length of the intervening generations would be 43 years, fairly long but not impossible.

David hailed from Alyth. He and his father, also David, had had sasine of the mill and mill lands of Alyth in 1620, the father in liferent, the son in fee [NRS GD16/12/119, dated 1 Jun 1620]. The father died in 1631 [Confirmed testament, NRS GD16/43/6], but did their ancestors come from Dumfriesshire? It may just be a myth, that just happens to bear a striking resemblance to another story that appeared in several newspapers in early 1854 [Brechin Advertiser, 7 Feb 1854]:

THE SOUTER SUCCESSION. - Two brothers named John and David Souter left the Wardmills of Arbroath for the Continent more than a hundred years ago. One of them left a son, who died near Aran in Switzerland without heirs, some years ago, leaving upwards of a million of pounds sterling. It is thought that the nearest heirs belong to this neighbourhood, and considerable interest has been excited among them, and many enquiries instituted. The prize is worth fighting for, and the matter is likely to engage lawyers and parties who think themselves related for months to come. It is a pity that parish registers are generally so incomplete, and that down to this time no legal provision has been made to enforce the entries of births, marriages, and deaths.

Aran is in the canton of Vaud/Waadt, just east of Lausanne on Lake Geneva, but the story is most likely nonsense, apart from the final sentence; could it be part of a concerted effort to encourage statutory registration that succeeded the next year?


1: John Wood's plan of the Burgh of Banff shows Stewart Souter's property, labelled "S. Sutar Esq." on the east side of the High Street, a short distance south of his brother-in-law George Garden Robinson's. Between these stands St Andrews Episcopal Church, for which Stewart Souter laid the foundation stone in 1833 [Perthshire Courier, 9 May 1833; and Aberdeen Press and Journal, 3 May 1933, 100 years on]. However, the census of 1841 has Alexander and family at Strocherie and the 1851 and 1861 census at 49 High Street, which seems now to be a modern building occupied by the CO-OP.

2: James Moody (from 1806, James Moody Howison Craufurd of Craufurdland) was minister of the West Kirk of Perth from 1772 to 1807 [Fasti, vol. 4, p. 235]

3: "Pittinbrid" here supports Mackenzie's conjecture that "Pan" is a contracted form of "Petan" in the name "Panbride" [W.C. Mackenzie Scottish Place-names, London, 1931, p. 247]


In the text at present.

This page new 2 Aug 2021