Motto: Touch not a catt bot a targe

Correctly speaking MacBain and MacBean are two names and are distinct, but due to spelling variations, certain similarities in pronunciation and corruptions due to Anglicisation, the two names have become frequently indistinguishable and interchangeable.  For this reason they are now regarded as one Clan.  MacBean comes from the Gaelic ‘Macbheathain’, son of life i.e. a doctor or physician.  They are said to belong to Clan Donald, having formally been their physicians.  

An alternative derivation is mentioned by Anderson, from the Gaelic ‘beann’, a mountain, so denoting that they were originally from the high country.  This derivation is not generally regarded as correct.  

MacBain comes from the Gaelic ‘MacBhain’, meaning ‘son of the fair or white haired or complexioned one’, ultimately from the root ‘ban’, fair.  At times the name is contracted from the fuller ‘mac a’ghille bhain’, son of the fair lad or servant.  This name was commonly found throughout many parts of the Highlands.  

There was, however, never a Clan MacBain.  The clan connection of those named MacBain is sometimes unlikely and ranges through to MacBean, Mackay, MacDonald and Maclaine of Duart.  Clan MacBean or MacBain, is a small sept of Clan Chattan who moved to Badenoch c.1291 when a Chattan heiress married a MacIntosh.  There were a number of other families of this name, some of whom seem to be connected to the main line while others appear separate.  

Some consider themselves to be part of the Camerons, and as such fought with Locheil (Cameron of) at Culloden, there were also families in Dorres, Strathnairn and Strathdearn.  Probably the two most well known of this clan were Gillies MacBean a captain in the MacIntosh Regiment at Culloden (killed in that battle), and a private in the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders who won the Victoria Cross during the storming of the Begum Bagh of Lucknow, in 1858.  It is quite acceptable for all those of the names MacBain and MacBean to use the tartan.