Clan MacBean started when Dougal Dall, 7th Chief of Clan Chattan (pronounce Hattan) gave his daughter, Eva, heiress to his Chieftainship of Clan Chattan, in marriage to Angus MackIntosh, the 6th Chief of Clan MackIntosh in 1291. One of our ancestors came with Eva as part of her family that moved with her when she married. It was custom that a new heiress would bring a following of her own kinsmen with her to her new married home. Her father was from the Royal family of Loern of the Ancient Celtic Kingdom of Dal Riad and this was also the family that Bean Macdhomhil Mor came from. “Bean” means lively one and “mor” means great.
When the Mackintosh granted him land, he rightly took his place as a clan chief. This is how Clan MacBean is considered part of Clan Chattan’s Federation of Clans. We carry the blood of both Clans and as the MackIntosh was also the Chief of Clan Chattan, our families have always been close. Eva came from Lochaber and after their marriage they lived for some time at Tor Castle in Glenloy. Due to the enmity of Angus Og of Islay they eventually withdrew to Rothiemurchus.
Our Lands were located on the south side of Loch Ness. There are several notible family groups, such as the MacBeans of Faillie, the MacBeans of Tomatin, the MacBeans of Pittanie, and the MacBeans of Kinchyle. It is the MacBeans of Kinchyle that the Chieftainship is passed through to our present Chief, James McBain of McBain – 22nd Chief of Clan MacBean.
The lands of Kinchyle were lost through taxation in the late 1700’s. At that time, the 15th Chief of Clan MacBean, Donald MacBean, was in the British Army and fighting in North America following the loss at the Battle of Culloden. William McBain – 16th Chief of Clan MacBean, immigrated to Canada in the early 1800’s, bringing the Chieftain lineage to North America. Many Clan members came to North America during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Some through the military, some through exploration, and some through transportation as prisoners.
In the mid-1900’s Hughston McBain was interested in his heritage and started doing research. It was discovered that the Chieftainship had been vacant for almost 200 years. After several years of follow-up research and applications to the Lord Lyon, he became the 21st Chief of Clan MacBean. He was able to buy a small piece of the old lands of Kinchyle and has established a park that all clan members may visit. Although the original home of Kinchyle has been lost to the clan, it still exists and is in very good shape. It is not a castle by any means, but a good sized home and can be seen by driving down the road past the turn off to the park.
Our Gaelic name is MacBheathain, meaning “Son of the Lively One”. It is prounounced MacBain in Scotland. The “bh” in the Gaelic has a “bv” sound. The “ea” has the harsh “a”. The “th” has an h sound. The “ai” has the harsh “e” sound. This becomes “Macbvaheen”. This is why there are so many spellings of the sound. For a long time, everything was spelled phonetically. There was no set way. You can find one family member that spelled his name one way and his brothers spelled it another way. Many records show the names spelled the way the recorder spelled it, not the way the family spelled it.
The Prefix of “Mac” means “Son of”. As time passed, many people dropped the a and put a line underneath the “Mc” with two dots to show that the a was suppose to be there. Later the lines and dots were dropped altogether. Some times you will find M’ which means the same as Mac. Mack is also accepted.
Clans & Septs
A Clan means a family. People of the same lineage settled in the same area. There was a Chief that was the ruler over the whole family. He was responsible for his people. He was the one that had to be sure that they had enough to eat and clothes on their backs. In return, they helped in what ever he needed them to do. If he called for the clan to gather for battle, it was their duty to respond by showing up. As the families became larger and moved to other surrounding areas to take up residence, they were still responsible to the Chief of the whole family – Clan. The Chief gives the Clan members protection and the Clan Members give their loyalty to the Chief.
If a family moved further away and found themselves in another Clans area, they could ask for protection from that Chief. If he accepted them, they became a Sept of his Clan and they gave their loyalty to this new Chief. Clan MacBean was known as an ever war like clan. They liked to fight. At one point there was a split in the Clan over the amount of fighting and some of the Clan moved to another area and became a Sept of Clan MacKay.
Clan MacBean has a number of Septs as well as name variations that have developed from our Gaelic name. This is common for many clans as there was no “correct” or even uniform spelling of a clan name, though MacBean is the most frequently used. Mac has been written as Mac – Mack – Mc – M’. Below is a list of Septs and different variations of our family name:
Alvin, Bain, Baine, Baines, Bane, Bayn, Bayne, Beain, Bean, Beane, Beattie, Bee, Beean, Been, Beene, Beth, Bheath, Binnie, Binning, Cabean, Cabeane, Cabeen, Cobain, Cobean, Elvain, Elvaine, Elvane, Elvayne, Elveen, Elwain, Elwane, Elwee, Ilvain, Ilvaine, Ilvayne, Ilvean, Ilveen, Ilveene, Ilwain, Ilwaine, Ilwane, Ilwee, MacAlbea, MacBain, MacBeath, MacBeth, MacBheath, MacIlvain, MacIlveen, Macilvian, MacVane, MacVean, McBain, McBeath, McElveen, Vain, Vaine, Vane, Vayn, Vaynes, Vean, Veane, Vee, Veen, Veene, Vian, Wain, Waine, Wane
Clan War Cry: Kinchyle!
Kinchyle is the Cry that the clan warriors would yell as they began to engage in battle. It was meant to unite them as one force. Kinchyle (kin-hile) was the land owned by the Clan which stretched around 2 miles along Lock Ness. This was located approximately where the town of Dores (due-ers) is today.
Clan Motto: Touch not a catt bot a targe!
This motto, which is written on our badge means, don’t mess with this cat unless you have a shield for protection against it!
Our Clan Badge is a Wildcat holding a shield known as a Targe. This Wildcat holding the targe, with his right paw up in the air. We wear the belt and buckle with the Motto written on it, which circles the Wildcat, as a symbol of our loyality to our Chief. The Clan “beastie” was the pet or charm animal that was supposed to exemplify the characteristics of the family. It is just like modern nations which have a national animal or bird and in the old days, each Clan considered itself to be a nation in its own right!
We really use the Wildcat as a play on the name Clan Chattan. The confederation took its name from being the followers or devotees of St. Chattan. His was a personal name meaning “Little Cat”. Being warriors, the Macbeans took the wildcat as their emblem. These were common in the Highlands. They are very tough beasties. Within modern memory, one killed an armed and experienced gamekeeper in the Highlands. Anyone seeing the wildcat should know at once we are also a part of Clan Chattan. This same cat is seen on the badges of Clan MacPherson, Clan MacIntosh, MacGillivray, and MacThomas. We are not a clan to be played with!
Clan MacBean Tartan
According to tartan authority James Scarlett, the MacBean tartan was a result of the tartan trade never missing an opportunity to proliferate tartans, so it was an interpretation of artist Robert McIan’s interpretation of the Birrell tartan that became known as MacBean. Many people mistakenly think that because some MacBean tartan may have a color stripe of dark blue/purple, medium purple, fuschia, or burgundy, that they are different tartans. They are not!
As James Scarlett says, “One constantly hears ancient, modern, reproduction and all the other tartan colourways referred to as different tartans whereas, in fact, the only differences are in the shades of colour used. In all tartans, it is the sett that counts; the weaver chooses shades of colour that suit his taste or from what are available.” So, although the registered sett has particular colors associated with it (the thread count or proportion), various shades of those colors may appear, whether from being woven by different mills or from dye-batch variations used at the same mill.
Governing official clan tartans is the authority of the Chief, hereditary leader of the clan. Ultimate approval for a sett or pattern is vested in the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms which governs Scottish heraldry. A clan’s official tartan (sett) is registered with the Lyon Court. The thread count or proportions of each specific color determine the sett. The sett could be woven in small, medium or large versions. This does not make them different – only better suited for certain uses. A small sett is more suitable for ties than a medium or large sett. A medium sett might be better for ladies wear while a medium or large sett is better for a kilt. What became known as MacBean tartan, as noted above, existed until Hughston McBain became the 21st Chief. James Scarlett notes, “When the late Hughston McBain matriculated as Chief, he adopted a minor variation on this.
So, Chief Hughston chose to alter the thread count and register the new version as the official MacBean sett. Two others, which are merely color variations of the official sett, have been designated as hunting and dress versions by the present 22nd Chief, James H. McBain of McBain. James Scarlett states, “The present Chief has recently authorized the use of the official sett in reproduction or muted colours as a hunting tartan,” and “The Dress tartan takes the usual form, with the pattern woven on a white, instead of red, ground; all black is omitted from the main pattern but here is a composite black/red/black overcheck on the main white ground.” This overcheck is often referred to as the Mackintosh stripe intending to show the MacBean connection to Clan Mackintosh and to the Clan Chattan Confederation. As members of this confederation we are able to wear their tartan as well.
Clan MacBean, therefore, has one official sett (pattern) in variations typically known as “modern” (red ground), “hunting” (muted/dark burgundy ground) and “dress” (white ground with overcheck). The moon tartan is of the old, no longer official, sett. There is another very hard to find variation, which many would refer to as “ancient” colors in that the red ground is reproduced in an orange-ish red or tomato soup shade, similar to what a vegetable dye red would fade to, with the other color shades altered similarly. As noted above, the differences in color shading dont make it a different tartan, only a different color variation on the official sett.
An American company, L. L. Bean, was marketing a tartan that they called MacBean Hunting. This was brought to the attention of Chief James who challenged them on it, rightly asserting himself as the only person who could legally make such a designation. As a result, L. L. Bean renamed the tartan Bean of Freeport (Freeport, Maine, being the company location). James Scarlett comments, “There is a pattern called Bean of Freeport, which is a simple variation of the green Shaw of Tordarroch tartan. It has no official standing.”
Quoted passages and other information are from The Tartans of the Clan Chattan by James D. Scarlett (Copyright, 2002), published by the Clan Chattan Association, 2003. Used by permission. Copies of the book, which includes color plates and official thread counts, are available from the Clan Chattan Association. See the page on Clan Chattan for their Web site and contact information.