Charles Geddes Soutar was born in 1878 of a Forfar family and apprenticed to Charles & Leslie Ower from 1892 to 1898, latterly working under William Gillespie Lamond by whom he was profoundly influenced. During this period he took classes at Dundee Technical College, latterly under Patrick Hill Thoms who also had a considerable influence on the development of his domestic style. He remained with Leslie Ower for a year after the break-up of the partnership in 1898, moving in 1899 to the office of John Murray Robertson to widen his experience, but the following year he returned to Leslie Ower as chief assistant. In 1902 he commenced practice on his own account with some success. He remained on good terms with Charles Ower, for whom he designed Aystree in 1903. On 16 July 1908 Soutar married _____ Stewart. In that same year he merged his practice with that of John Turnbull Maclaren (born 1864) as Maclaren Sons & Soutar, a move which took the Maclaren practice back into the premier league. With his white or cream suits and stylish boating hats he brought a breath of fresh air to the practice, which had remained somewhat staid despite the recruitment of Andrew Patrick as leading draughtsman: a staff photograph of that time, now in the RCAHMS, well illustrates the difference between the partners, Maclaren being a portly figure in a sombre city suit.
In 1920 the practice merged with J & F Salmond, a firm of civil engineers, land surveyors and architects based at 6 High Street, the firm now becoming Maclaren Soutar Salmond with John Turnbull Maclaren, Charles Geddes Soutar and William Salmond as partners. In 1921 Maclaren retired and Patrick was taken into partnership, but the name of the firm remained unchanged, the merged firms now moving to 15 South Tay Street. Maclaren enjoyed a very long retirement, dying at the house he had built for himself, Whinsby, Abercromby Street, Barnhill on 20 March 1948.
Soutar was admitted ARIBA in late 1921, his proposers being Patrick Hill Thoms, John Donald Mills and Godfrey Daniel Bower Shepherd; and was admitted FRIBA the following year, again proposed by Thoms but this time with Alexander Nisbet Paterson and William Brown Whitie as his other proposers: Paterson and Whitie he had got to know through the RIAS of which he was an active member and was to become president in 1936-38.
In 1929 Maclaren Soutar Salmond took over the practice of David Wishart Galloway who had been killed in a motorcycle accident in that year, and for rather more than a decade maintained his office at 2 Market Street, Brechin as a branch, but this was de-merged to A B Roger as an independent practice in the 1940s.
Around 1933 the practice was joined as prospective partner by Thomas Steuart Fothringham, born 5 April 1907, who had been educated at Wellington and had read architecture at Trinity College Cambridge with Ian Gordon Lindsay and R A C Simpson. In the event his association with the practice was relatively short as he inherited the Pourie and Fothringham estates in April 1936 and did not return to the practice after serving as a Major in the Black Watch during the Second World War.
Charles Soutar's interest in the practice did not survive the Second World War either, and without him it went into a gradual decline. Although his practice was not particularly large, Soutar was a prominent figure in Scottish architecture between the wars. He was an outstanding Arts and Crafts architect with wide artistic interests and was remembered by his friends as generous in spirit and of infinite human kindness. Along with his client David Band of Band & Whyte and the schools inspector John Taylor Ewen, he was one of the principal patrons of the Arbroath artist James Waterston Herald. Although a very able designer and a fine draughtsman and watercolourist Patrick was content to take a secondary role in charge of the drawing office, producing beautiful presentation drawings for clients. Soutar became a very active member of the RIBA, and was elected to the Council for 1923-24, 1925-26 and 1935-44, serving as Vice-President from 1939 to 1944. Thomas Forbes Maclennan recalled that at these meetings he remained informal in style to the end, preferring plus fours to a city suit. Soutar was also a member of the Council of the Dundee Institute of Architects.
Soutar moved house to Wheatlands, Forfar in 1941. In 1946 he began to suffer from Alzheimer's disease and had to withdraw from the practice completely, and he died on 14 November 1952, leaving Â£5,166 13s 5d. His architect son David did not remain with the practice, preferring to take a civil service job in Aberdeen. The practice was continued by the ageing Andrew Patrick and by William Salmond whose expertise lay chiefly in valuation. The latter was an old-fashioned gentleman of impressive presence, very tall, infinitely courteous and patient, qualities which served him well as the long-serving chairman of the Dundee rent tribunal. After Andrew Patrick died in 1951 the architectural work was in the hands of the practice's middle-aged chief assistant Stuart O Barron who had become a partner on Soutar's retirement.
Information courtesy of Dictionary of Scottish Architects.