Chronological History 

of Soulseat Abbey, Scotland

(Known as Saulseat in History of the Parish of Inch)

Compiled by 

Mr. T. Alastair Findlay, Friend of the Order





Birth of St Malachy, Bishop of Down

Died 1148

c1125 -1154

Gilla-Aldan, Bishop of Diocese of Galloway, who, after the death of St. Malachy again founded Soulseat intending to install Augustine Canons…..

See 1154


St Malachy intends to found a Cistercian abbey at Soulseat



St Malachy brings an abbot and monks to Soulseat. They may have been Cistercian but there is no proof of this

See St. Bernard’s  Life of St Malachy


Bishopric of Christian commences. Prefers installing Premonstratensians at Soulseat. Accepted by Fergus, Lord of Galloway.




An Order of Canons (founded by St Norbert) come from Prémontré to Soulseat.

Cowan & Easson say as the only surviving chartulary is that of Dryburgh it is difficult to reconstruct the history of the houses


Whithorn provided with Premonstratensian beginnings from Soulseat.



From 1177 and through the ensuing centuries, Whithorn surpassed Soulseat in wealth and importance but Soulseat held its principal status.

See 1542


Holywood provided with Premonstratensian beginnings from Soulseat.



(15 July) Pope Clement VII issues approval to Finlay, Abbot of Soulseat to annex Kirkmaiden parish church in ‘le Rynnis’ as the fruits of the abbey could not sustain the community.



Quintin Vaux was abbot of Soulseat (succeeded by David Vaux).



King James IV writes to and receives approval from the Abbot General of the Premonstratensians to make Whithorn the principal house of the order in Scotland with full jurisdiction in visitation and reformation.



As a result of Whithorn’s drastic exercise of power, King James again writes, supported by the abbot of Dryburgh, to have the General rescind Whithorn’s authority and transfer same to Dryburgh.

Reply unknown, but if granted, authority was soon returned to Soulseat (1524?)


Quentin, abbot of Soulseat described in a Crown letter as ‘Father Superior of Premonstratensian order in Scotland’.  



David, abbot of Soulseat received Crown letters ordaining all in authority to assist and protect him in visiting and reforming all 6 Premonstratensian houses in Scotland.  

Did this mean that Soulseat was again the senior House?


After this date, Commendators, who were religious superiors without being monks or canons, (sometimes secular priests or laymen).



(18 July) Provided in commendam to James Johnstone, rector of Johnstone, a secular priest of Diocese of Glasgow.

PP p.79  see 1545


Canons George Freebairn & Thomas Gellatly mentioned at Soulseat.



Abbot of Soulseat made Visitator of Premonstratensian Houses in Scotland.



(27 March) Canon Frederick Bruce, Superior at Whithorn was also vicar of  Soulseat and Toskerton Parish Churches.

‘Evidence’ of insufficient canons resident at Soulseat to meet commitments


The Reformation survived by canons John White & James Thomson.


1563+ James Thomson reader at Soulseat (1563-1574)  
1568 John Johnstone signed a bond promising to fight for Mary, Queen of Scots John Johnstone notable for having been prosecuted for saying Mass after the Reformation prohibition of 1560.  
1572 John Johnstone 'deleited for the administratione of the Mass and the Sacraments in the Papisticall manner' (26 June)  
1574 James Fothinghame, minister of Glenluce, given oversight of Soulseat  
1595 Survey of Galloway by Timothy Pont Blaeu map of 1654 Soulseat described by the word 'Abbey'
1598 End of John Johnstone's tenure  
1598 John Kennedy  
1598 John Johnston (ca. 1598/9 - 1601)  
1600 Death of John Johnstone (14 April) He had two illegitimate sons
1601 William Adair, younger of Kinhilt  
1612+ John Hamilton (1612 - 1630)  
1630 Soulseat Abbey lands secularised and emoluments transferred to the new church of Portpatrick and Soulseat parish united with Inch According to Reid, little could have remained of the abbey at that time
1684 Symson writes of Soulseat: The manse belonging to the minister of Inch is seated here, though a mile distant from the kirk; and the gleib is environed with this loch, and a short trench drawn from one corner to the other thereof.  
1782 Publication of Ainslie's map showing trench or moat across neck of promontory.  
1838 New Church of Scotland manse built at Soulseat to serve the parish of Inch  
1877 McKerlie writes: The manse and glebe of Inch now occupy the site of the Abbey, of which only a few vaults and other fragments remain.  In trenching the ground a great many human bones have been dug up.  
1917 Scott reports:  The remains (of the Abbey) are now but scanty.  Near its ruins is St. John's Croft.    
1960 Reid writes:  Surface indications are of a cruciform church of normal Premonstratensian type, with trancepts of two bays and an aisleless nave.  It is possible that the back half of the present manse is built on the line of the west range.    
1983 19th century manse becomes a private house owned by John and Maureen McKinley and known as Meadowsweet.   Walled garden developed into an herb garden
1986 (March) Studies and prospective excavations carried out by The Royal Commission on the Ancient Historical Monuments of Scotland.  To the east of the manse there are turf-covered remains of a robbed rectangular building aligned east-to-west and measuring about 67'-7" by 42'-3" overall; and about 39' south a small area of cobbling has been revealed.   Report published in 1987 (Glasgow University ??)
1999 (11 November)  Title to the Soulseat loch peninsula divided.  The manse (then named Meadowsweet and re-named Greenloch House) and 5.5 acres bought by Mrs. Nicola Rose Hillman.  The former walled garden of the manse retained by Mr. & Mrs. McKinley wherein a new house was built.  
2002 The new position of the 'healing stone' recorded by GPS by Phil Heslop (approx. 33'-0" west of front porch in gravel garden).    





Reprinted with permission of Mr. T. Alastair Findlay.



micscope.gif (3964 bytes)

mailbox.gif (3476 bytes)