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                  The Three Great Great Grandfathers


David Bruce


I write this about my great great grandfather- Meredith Reardon


Scottish born David Bruce became a well-known mariner, who went to sea at the age of 10. He was obviously a comfortable sailor as he remained a mariner all his working life. He was master of a type of ship called a barque and named Irene for about 11 years. His involvement with the colony of South Australia convinced him a larger, faster and more comfortable ship was needed to service the colony. The City of Adelaide was the result. His descendants live in the UK, South Australia and Tasmania.


More detail about David Bruce can be found elsewhere on this website and embedded in the reference book “Clipper Ship City of Adelaide -Fun facts and figures”.


According to shipping acts later in the 1800’s, a ship’s master had to be aged 21 and to have spent 7 years at sea, part of which were spent as a first mate and passing examinations. David Bruce was born in 1816 and went to sea in 1826. He would have qualified under the 1844 Merchant Seaman Act to become a ship’s master. Complicated calculations but he had a great deal of experience at sea!


David Bruce had maritime family settling in Australia- his sons John and Alexander.  David returned to Scotland to live his older years.


He was a respected Captain. Here are some testimonials:


An extract from the Adelaide Observer Nov 17th, 1855


     Handsome Testimonial. — On Wednesday we had the pleasure of inspecting a very handsome silver cup of considerable weight, presented to Captain David Bruce, of the barque Irene, by his passengers, as a memorial of their kind regard and esteem for that gentle-man. Carved on the cup are devices emblematical of agriculture and commerce, and also other figures which evidently bear allusion to South Australia —the fertility of its soil, the luxuriance of its vineyards, and the beauty of its birds. Those to whom Captain Bruce is well known cannot fail to look upon the conduct of his passengers as highly creditable to their good taste and judgment.




An extract from the Adelaide Observer April 4th, 1903


    Death of Capt. David Bruce, who was well known in South Australia 40 years ago as captain of some of the fastest and most popular clipper ships which traded between England and Australia prior to the introduction of steamships on that route. Capt. Bruce made his first trip to South Australia in the Irene in the late fifties, relinquished his command of that vessel a few years later to bring out the City of Adelaide, a noted clipper, which was a keen rival of the Yatala. These vessels were engaged mainly in the wool trade, but their owners also catered for passenger traffic, and the accommodation provided for travellers in their saloons was unrivalled at that time.

Capt. Bruce was a genial seaman of the old school, and many early colonists who journeyed between England and Australia on board the vessels which he commanded will regret to hear of his death.


Charles Heard



I write this about my great great grandfather – Adrian Heard


Mariner on HMS Beagle 1832-40.


Charles Heard – Born Westward Ho, Devon England in September 1821, Died Balaklava 6/8/1897


Charles Heard was barely 10 years old when he was recruited into the British Navy in October 1831 and he set sail on HMS Beagle from Plymouth (about 100km south of Westward Ho) in late December 1831. He was a forecastle man and one of 34 sailors on board, who was not named in Captain Fitzroy’s list of the crew. However, he is recorded as being on board the Beagle due to Charles Darwin, who was present on the voyage, recording the name of all sailors. This demonstrates the challenges researchers have in obtaining accurate information. It was only in the 1844 Merchant Seaman Act that it was mandated that all crew members were to be recorded.


The Beagle left Plymouth on a voyage which included a range of tasks. The ship's primary role was as a survey vessel, but it also included collecting biological specimens for Charles Darwin’s work, and dropping off a group of Tierra del Fuegians and a missionary near Cape Horn. The 1832-35 voyage of HMS Beagle had the following route – Plymouth-Brazil-Argentina-Chile-Galapagos-Tahiti-Sydney-Hobart-Albany-South Africa-Falmouth UK.


It is highly likely that Charles Heard, then rejoined HMS Beagle for its third and last major voyage as a decorated petty officer, which surveyed the Australian coastline from 1837-43. The route was – Woolwich – Tenerife – Brazil – South Africa – Swan River (Perth) – Hobart – Sydney – Bass Strait – Tasmania – Sydney – Queensland – Port Essington (Darwin) – Timor – Arafura Sea – Darwin – Kimberley Coast – Swan River (Perth) – Holdfast Bay (Adelaide 1840) – Sydney – Queensland – Gulf of Carpentaria – Darwin – Perth – Geraldton – Port Adelaide (1842) – Portland – Hobart – Sydney.


The masters on the HMS Beagle were Captain Fitzroy on the 1832-35 voyage, and then by Captain Wickham (1837-1841) and Captain Lort-Stokes (1841-43) on the 1837-43 voyage. Charles Heard deserted the ship at Holdfast Bay near Glenelg during the period Nov to Dec 1840. The only other possible time he could have deserted the Beagle was when it revisited Adelaide in early 1842. However, on this second visit, it moored on the North Arm of the Port River, and we know that Charles left the ship in Holdfast Bay.


Charles swam ashore at Holdfast Bay by swimming over one mile with a tarpaulin of possessions tied to his head. He went into hiding and sought work -his first job as the lower saw operator in a sawpit and soon became the top sawyer.


When deserting ship, Charles Heard had the advantage of having previously visited Australia. At the time of his desertion, Adelaide was a new and prosperous colony which was very attractive to young migrants. Desertions from ships in Adelaide were not uncommon in the 1840s and 1850s. His desertion was more serious than usual because it was from a naval vessel and the punishment for the offence was hanging. It is likely that he remained silent about his naval history after 1840, due to the risk of being discovered and deported back to England for punishment. Many of his descendants live in Australia particularly South Australia.


No photo or painting of Charles has been found by his family, but we have a photo of his grave stone in the Balaklava cemetery.

An update -as of Dec 2020, there is keen interest from a descendent of Charles Heard who read the above. The narrative which has been passed down to her is very different. More research to be done!


Mathurin DeLaine



I write this about my great great grandfather – Bob DeLaine


Mathurin Charles Leon DeLaine was born in France in 1818.  His mother, Bernice Laine was unmarried.  We believe that he later changed his family name to DeLaine.  Ship crew lists have him as Mathurin Laine. This change in surname had made it very difficult to trace any forebears until 2018.


Until 2018 he was still a mystery man of French origin apart from folk lore stories passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Access to multi-media, digitising of French records and some chance discoveries, his secrets are finally being unravelled piece by piece. There is still much work to be done.


A birth record for Mathurin Charles Leon Laine is recorded in the 1818 registry of Etretat (Seine-Maritime - Frame 43 number 13) which the family believe is part of Le Havre. The first reference to the surname De Laine appears to be following his arrival in South Australia in 1839.


At about age 10, Mathurin sailed with his family to the United States of America. His movements after that are unclear, but in the next decade he sailed from Havre de Grace, France, in the French whaler, the Mississippi.  The ship arrived in Port Lincoln on October 8th, 1839. It was the first non British vessel to arrive in Port Lincoln since European settlement. 


The Mississippi returned to Port Lincoln on October 17th 1839, left and then returned looking for two missing people, Mathurin and the ship’s cook.


We do not know how Mathurin journeyed to Adelaide but believe it may have been on another vessel. There is a record of the Mississippi arriving in Adelaide on December 26th 1839.


Mathurin is listed in the Mortlock Library Adelaide as being an early pioneer of Adelaide and lived at 534 Sultana (now Sultram) Place, Adelaide before moving to 21 Clarke Street, Norwood.


Mathurin set up a small goods business at 44 The Parade, Norwood (near the Old Colonist Hotel) and was famous for his French sausage, a recipe he was given by the cook.  Mathurin’s eldest son carried on the business. This business became untenable once the Gepps Cross Abattoirs was commenced.


Mathurin joined the Metropolitan Police Force on 16 April 1845 but left being disillusioned with the graft or corruption.


He died of asthma at the age of 68 years in Norwood, South Australia on 18th June 1886.


Many of his descendants live in Adelaide and Port Lincoln, South Australia.


The family believe this photo was taken when he was recognised as a “Pioneer” in South Australia circa 1880.


Research and study from this page:


If you know your family migrated to Australia, research your family voyage to reach here.


Document how challenging some details are to find out- almost detective work! What were the challenges for the above 3 families' descendants to expose?

Compare and contrast the lives of these three mariners who went to sea at the age of 10 in the early 1800s.

david bruce .jpg
Captain David Bruce
Grave of Charles Heard
Mathurin DeLaine
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