The McEachin surname originated in the Highlands of Scotland. In A.D. 247, the Pictish prince Eachain led his tribe from County Down, Northern Ireland to what is now southern Scotland, around Galloway. Eachain means "Horse Lord" in Scots Gaelic. According to most authoritative book on the subject:
"The Surnames of Scotland:
"MacEachan, MacEachain, MacEachen, MacEachin, MacAchin, MacEchan, MacCeachan. G. MacEachainn 'son of Eachan', g.v. The MacEachans of the present day are said to be MacDonalds, but many of them in Arisaig and Uist so long used their patronymic as their surname that the practice has become settled. The late Allan R. MacDonald of Waternish says it is very doubtful if the MacEachens are really MacDonalds, and that there is good reason to believe that they are really MacLeans (The Truth About Flora MacDonald, p.14n). Gillecrist Mecachin witnessed a charter by Roger de Scallebroc of lands in Carrik in the reign of William the Lion (Melros I, p.26). In 1505 'a respit was maid to J. Makachyn and to Donald Moyl Macachane for all crimes etc. done in ony tyme bigane' (RSS, I, 1174). Andrew M'Cachin was rector of Ardmuchy, 1506 (ER, XII, p.709), and Archibald McCachin was a tenant in Colonsay in same year (ibid). Neill Makachyn and Malcolme Makachyn, 'his bruder', were killed in 1508 (RSS, I, 1709). Alexander M'Quuichin of Dalquhat was outlawed in 1528. Satisfaction was to be rendered to the kin of Donald Ballo McAuchin, 1532 (RSS, II, 1525). John M'Gauchane was burgess of Edinburgh, 1540 (ibid, 3773), and William Reoch M'Aychin gave his bond of manrent to the earl of Huntlie, 1543 (SCM, IV, p.260). Gillespik M'Kouchane was in Mergmonogach, Kintyre, 1605 (HP, III, p.81), Angus McAchane alias McAllaster is in Islay, 1614 (Cawdor, p.232), Ard McKukan appears in Nether Lorn, 1692 (Commons, p.33), and Ewan McEachan or McAihan was a tenant under Chisholm of Erchles, 1721 (HP, II, p.297). Many MacEachans emigrated to Nova Scotia and to Prince Edward Island and their descendants are now numerous there. McAchine 1635, Makcachane 1605, McEachan 1718, M'Eachine 1705, MacIkin (in Polloundowie) 1662, M'Kiachan 1724. Also Englished Auchaneson. See also MacGeachan."
To explain: Some Scottish parents named their sons after Eachain, mostly members of Clan Ghillean (the MacLeans) and Clan Donald. Since Scottish surnames were patronymic (deriving from the father's given name) up until the 17th century, a son of Eachain would have the last name McEachain (M', Mc, and Mac are all abbreviations for "son of", and there is absolutely no difference in meaning between them). Over the next 200 years, sons began taking the same surnames as their father, and this practice was mostly fixed by the time that Scots began leaving Scotland in large numbers.
You may have noticed that the spellings were once quite varied. Gaelic does not translate to English-style phonetic spelling very well, and so a lot of creativity was shown in rendering the name in print. The name was originally pronounced "mik-a~-in", where ~ symbolizes a Scottish "burr" (sort of like the sound made when preparing to spit). This sound has been spelled "ch", "th", and "gh", giving us the most common spellings McEachan, McEachen, McEachin, McKeithan, McKechnie, McGeachie, and McCaughan. This site is devoted to the first three, as the others, while derived from the same source, are not necessarily related, since the name was once patronymic.
Some people think that McEachin and McEachern are the same, but my sources indicate different origins. A letter from Dougal MacEachern of Scotland, dated 1903, states: "There have been M'Donalds who have called themselves M'Eachan from an ancestor, Hector McDonald, and I think that there are such MacEachans from Uist, but these are not MacEacherns". A.I.B. Stewart wrote, in Argyll Colony Plus: "Most writers warn against confusing Maceachan, the family which held Tangy up to 1709, with Maceachran who had the lands of Killellan from at least 1499 up to 1740, apart from a forfeiture after Dunaverty." Hence, I feel confident in stating that the McEachins and McEacherns are indeed different, though some who did not know better allowed the spelling of their surname to be changed to the other, including some persons in my own family!.
There is no "Clan McEachain", despite what some would lead you to believe.
There is no tartan, not that it matters, since the whole "official clan tartan" industry is a scam dreamed up to cash in on the Victorian penchant for all things Scottish. Yes, the plaid is Scottish, just don't feel compelled to wear a particular one. Wear whatever you like, as long as it doesn't belong to the Campbells. I'm partial to the purple and green of Clan Donald of Clanranald.
And no, there is no McEachin coat-of-arms. Save your money!
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Page last modified: 03/28/00
Copyright © 2000 Jeffrey D. McEachin.
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