Mathurin Charles Leon De Laine
Young charles delaine
Sex: Male
Birth: circa 1818, Le Harve, France
Baptism: unknown
Death: 18/6/1886, Norwood, South Australia, Australia
Father: Unknown
Mother: Unknown
Spouse/Partner: Jane Lucas
Marriage: 13/3/1843 Adelaide, South Australia

The De Laine surname is spelt in a variety of ways in records concerning Mathurin Charles Leon De Laine. The most common spelling is Delaine, but DE Laine, DeLaine & Delane have also appeared from time to time. In a letter written by the man himself to the police department in 1869, he uses the spelling De Laine.

Mathurin Charles Leon De Laine was born in Le Harve, France in approximately 1818 and went by the name of Charles. In Australia, people who knew him also referred to him as the 'The Frenchman'. No documentary eveidence of his early life before he came to Australia has yet been located, so it is subject to many stories, none of which have been proven. Some of the stories include:- - Charles being educated in the USA and Canada - His father dying and his mother remarrying a Spaniard - Casper being the name of his mother's new partner or an old family name - His family having a shipping business in Le Harve - Charles being disinherited - Charles joining a merchant ship and deserting in Port Adelaide - Charles being a sealer or a whaler who jumped ship in New Zealand and eventually made his way to Australia - Charles arriving in Australia on the same ship as his future wife, Jane Lucas (although he is not recorded on the passanger list).

It will require international research to determine exact details of Charles early life. It is possible that he did come out on the ship 'Fairfield" that his wife travelled on to Australia in 1840, but under an assumed name. Jane's sister was in love with a man called Benjamin Pitman, who came out to Australia under the assumed name of 'Joseph Lucas' to obtain passage with the family. There is reference to a 'DeNeufville Lucas' in some passenger lists for the 'Fairfield'. A person of that name did live in South Australia for a period but has been proven to be from a totally different Lucas family and is highly unlikey to have been in South Australia at that specific time (he arrived later). So is the 'DeNeufville' Lucas mentioned in some passenger lists really Charles under an assumed name, or a clerical error? Historical information on the Lucas family refers to 3 Lucas children dying on the voyage over from England - were these 3 children really 3 people under assumed names?


Another story that leads strongly to Charles arrival in Australia is that he deserted a sealing or whaling vessel. Maureen M Leadbetter states that Charles deserted the French whaling ship "Mississipi" in approximately 1838/1839. There is definitive evidence of the "Mississippi" being in New Zealand and Australian waters several times between 1836 and 1839, including a whole winter in Cloudy Bay in New Zealand. There was also a stop over in Hobart in January 1838. The Port Lincoln Herald newspaper reports the "Mississippi" stopping at Port Lincoln in South Australia on 8th October 1839, for water and provisions, staying for 9 days. In Shipping Arrivals and Departures SA 1627-1850, RT Sexton states that the ship departed Port Lincoln on the 17th October for New Zealand, but had to return that night to entrap 2 deserters, the ship eventually arriving in New Zealand on 28/2/1840. Where Sexton obtained the information about the deserters is not known. It is possible that he refers to a file in the South Australian State Library called French Whaling Masters, Reports and Declarations of. Recorded in French, it details a series of questions put to the masters on their return. Some reports list the names of those on board. Reel 2 includes the voyages of the "Mississippi". The end of the report for the 1838 voyage has 'signe' followed by a list of names including "Laine". The home port of the "Mississippi" was Le Harve where Charles states he was born, and being on board a whaling ship is a likely place for him to have learnt the butchering trade that he practised long in his life. More investigation on the whaling ship "Mississippi" is required to prove if this is a true connection.

The Police ForceEdit

Our first official record of Charles is his marriage to Jane Lucas at Holy Trinity Church in Adelaide, South Australia on 13th March 1843. The witnesses were Janes' parents, Robert & Jane Lucas (nee Moon), with Rev. Charles Beaumont Howard officiating. Charles gave his occupation at the time as servant. Soon after the marriage, Charles took up butchering as his trade.

Charles delaine police service record

Charles De Laine's police service record

On the 16th April 1845, Charles joined the South Australian Police Force. His service record gave his year and place of birth, stated his previous occupation as butcher, and listed him as 5 foot 7 inches tall, married and with no religion stated. For the next 25 years, Charles had an 'on & off' relationship with the police force, joining and resigning and re-joining again at a later date. It is beleived that resigning and rejoining was caused by the shortage of money in the Colony of South Australia to pay its Police Force. He was made a Detective Constable in 8th April 1867 and then a Police Constable on 15th April 1867, only to be retrenched on 30th November 1869. Charles was so distraught by the situation that he felt compelled to write a letter to the Chief Secretary about his situation. It reads:-

"I have the honour to make application for a subordinate situation under Government, being one of the unfortunate Police Office discharged from the foot Police on account of the retrenchment. I beg most resepctfully to state that in my late capacity I served the Government well and truly as certified by my testimonal enclosed. I therefore humbly request that any situation suited to my capacity at the disposal of the Government may be given to me as I have a family of nine children dependent on me for support. I feel mine to be a hard case, meriting at least the kindly consideration of the Government. Sir I beg further to state that when I last joined the Police Force in 1867 that I was recommended by Chief Justice Hasidon and John Brown esq. And several other gentlemen with an unblemished character. I have been here 30 years and was a Police officer in the early days of this Colony. Sir being a Frenchman I hope that you will excuse some of my English in this letter, trusting to Providence and your kind consideration."


Charles De Laine in police uniform


Charles returned to the butchering trade and conducted a sausage making business from a premises in Sultram Place in Adelaide. In 1876, he moved to a cottage that is today 25 Clark Street, Norwood. He contonued the processing of smallgoods at the rear of the home, until 1883 when a butcher shop was built for the purpose on The Parade at Norwood. When Charles died on 18th June 1886 of asthma, his son Leon (Mathurin Charles Leon De Laine junior) left his trade to take over the smallgoods business. One of his brothers joined him in the partnership as he had learnt the smallgoods business, and the shop remined in family hands until 1948.

Charles left all property to his wife Jane in his will, and it was her who asked the sons to assist with the business. Charles is buried with wife Jane in the West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide.

Charles delaine

Charles in later years, circa 1880

Delaine gravestone

Charles' grave in the West Terrace Cemetery


Name Birth Death
Children of Charles and Jane De Laine

Caroline Berenice 3/12/1843
Not recorded, South Australia
Norwood, South Australia

Berenice Isabella 2/10/1845
Adelaide, South Australia
Not recorded, South Australia

Berenice Isabella 8/9/1847
Adelaide, South Australia
Adelaide, South Australia

Jeanette Emily 16/7/1849
Adelaide, South Australia
Adelaide, South Australia

Mathurin Charles Leon (junior) 19/6/1851
Adelaide, South Australia
Kensington Gardens, South Australia

George Robert 29/10/1853
Adelaide, South Australia
Parkside, South Australia

Janet Emily 30/9/1856
Adelaide, South Australia
Mile End, South Australia

William Casper 27/12/1858
Adelaide, South Australia
Torrensville, South Australia

Henry James 2/8/1861
Adelaide, South Australia
Ashford, South Australia

Arthur Edward 26/3/1864
Adelaide, South Australia
Parkside, South Australia

Celia Jane 3/4/1868
Adelaide, South Australia
St Leonards, South Australia

Clara Adeline 6/6/1870
Adelaide, South Australia
Payneham, South Australia


  • The De Laine Family History 1840-2008, compiled by Lorraine Willoughby, 2008
  • Birth, Death & Marriage records
  • The South Australian Police Gazette
  • South Australian Police Records
  • Assessment books of Kensington and Norwood
  • Non British Colonists and Naturalisation: South Australia's Early Days, by Maureen M Leadbetter, last updated 17/3/2009, Adelaide Cooperative History
  • A History of Southern New Zealand from 1830 to 1840, by Egbert McNab, Whitcombe and Tombs Limited, 1913
  • The Port Lincoln Herald, 08/10/1839
  • Shipping Arrivals and Departures SA 1627-1850, by RT Sexton
  • French Whaling Masters , Reports and declarations of, State Library of South Australia