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Surname:  MacIain
Branch:  MacIain
Origins:  Scottish
More Info:  Scotland

Background:  The MacIans of Ardnamurchan, who sometimes, wrongly, called themselves Johnstone, claimed descent from a son of Angus Mor, Lord of the Isles in the fourteenth century. In the seventeenth century some of them settled on the east coast and became prominent merchants in Elgin, where they called themselves MacKeane. This clan of MacIain is long remembered as being the clan who was massacred at Glencoe in 1692. Old MacIain, chief of the McDonalds of Glencoe, and his clan were massacred by order of King William. The story of the MacDonalds of Glencoe thus begins in 1692. The MacIan MacDonalds were active in many unsavory affairs including support for Montrose in his many campaigns for the Jacobite cause, and the reiving of cattle from lands to the south - Campbell lands in Argyll. In the eyes of the southern people, they were a clan to make an example of. They MacIan MacDonald's were a small clan of no more than 300-400 strong. They'd lived in these lands for centuries and felt themselves the owners of the area. In February of 1692, under government orders, a regiment of government soldiers from the Duke of Argyll's (Campbell) militia, came into the glen. Most of the troops were Campbells, or septs of the Campbells, but the strict code of hospitality required the MacDonald Chief, and his people, to give food and shelter to the unwelcomed guests. At 5 a.m. in the morning the soldiers awoke and massacred most of the clan - woman, children, men - anyone under the age of 70, those that fleed died of exposure in the mountains of Glencoe.

Motto:  My hope is constant in Thee.
Arms:  Argent an eagle displayed Gules surmounted of a lymphad Sable and in the dexter chief a hand Proper holding a cross-crosslet fitchee Azure.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

The story has been handed down as one concerning the "Macdonalds of Glencoe", and indeed the victims were of Clan Macdonald, but as descendants of Iain Fraoch, bastard son of Angus Og and brother of John Macdonald, Lord of the Isles, they bore the name MacIain. Their immediate Chief at the time of the massacre was designated "Mac Ian of Glenco" in the warrant King William signed. (Known variations of the spelling of MacIain include McCain, MacKean, MacKane, MacKain and MacKeen.)

The MacIains of Glencoe appear now to have no recognised chief, the clansmen giving their allegiance directly to Godfrey Macdonald of Macdonald, Lord Macdonald of Slate, Chief of the Name and Arms of Macdonald. No one today bears the Glencoe arms (Argent an eagle displayed Gules surmounted of a lymphad Sable and in the dexter chief a hand Proper holding a cross-crosslet fitchee Azure). The badge the Glencoe clansmen bear is thus the badge of Macdonald of Macdonald. However, it is open to a claimant to petition to be recognised as MacIain of Glencoe, and perhaps one may yet come forth.

The question of the MacCain tartan is difficult to answer. McIan's famous 1845 print of a Glencoe clansman shows an unrecognisable tartan, and the different pattern in Ian Grimble's 1977 book appears to have no authority. The Tartans Museum has an unknown tartan discovered in Glencoe, believed to be local but without documentation to support its origin, that may be the best candidate.

Without a Chief to matriculate the Arms, Crest and Motto of MacIain of Glencoe, no badge can be defined authoritatively unless the Lord Lyon wishes to intervene to do so. However, it is possible to design a badge that accords with the history and tradition of the MacIains of Glencoe and honours the laws of heraldry. James Logan in 1845 claimed the crest of the MacIains of Glencoe to be be a raven Sable on a rock Azure, but this today is assigned to the Macdonalds of Glengarry. Accordingly, the crest could be the dexter chief charge in the arms (a hand Proper holding a cross-crosslet fitchee Azure), and this crest could be encircled by the clansman's strap-and-buckle to form the clansman's badge.

Name Variations:  MacIain, McCain, MacKean, MacKane, MacKain, MacKeen, MacKeane, MacIan.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Neil Grant - 2000.
Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia; George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire - 1994.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Ian Grimble - 1973.
World Tartans; Iain Zaczek - 2001.
Clans and Families of Scotland; Alexander Fulton - 1991.

The beautiful heraldry artwork for this family is available to purchase on select products from the Celtic Radio Store. We look forward to filling your order!


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