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Rosily Vineyard

The story behind the name


Rosily Vineyard Established: 1994

Rosily Vineyard is named after Vice-Admiral Count François-Étienne de Rosily-Mesros (1748-1832), a French Navigator and Cartographer, who was intimately involved in the ongoing French explorations of Western Australia during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Rosily was an ensign on the ‘Gros Ventre’ commanded by Louis de St. Alouarn in 1772. He had started the voyage on the Gros Ventre’s sister ship, the ‘Fortune’ commanded by Yves Joseph de Kerguelen-Trémarec, but had become separated whilst undertaking a survey of the newly discovered Kerguelen Island. Due to bad weather, Kergeulen turned back to Mauritius, abandoning the unfortunate Rosily and his crew, who were luckily rescued later by Louis de St. Alouarn. The ‘Gros Ventre’ continued east until it encountered the south west coast of Australia at Cape Leeuwin, where Rosily made the first, but very accurate survey of Flinders Bay. They then sailed north to Shark Bay where Rosily made another accurate map of that section of the coast. It was here, at Dirk Hartog Island, that St. Alouarn formally annexed Western Australia for France.

By the 1820s, Rosily had risen to the influential position of Director of the Hydrographic Office in Paris, and was one of the few who were enthusiastic about future French settlement in Western Australia. France, like Britain, was experiencing an overcrowding problem in its gaols, and by the early 1820s Western Australia was seen as a potential French penal colony. Rosily and others championed this idea, and several expeditions were sent to make detailed surveys of the South West in preparation for establishing a settlement. The French activity alarmed the British enough to despatch a contingent of men from their colony in New South Wales to occupy King George Sound in December 1826, and to claim the whole of Western Australia for Britain. The French threat was averted, and the planting of the first Margaret River vineyards was thus delayed by many decades! 

Rosily Vineyard uses the attractive French ‘Fleur-de-lys’ motif on its labels, as a reminder of the French connection that nearly was. The Fleur-de-lys, a stylised flower, is actually an ancient symbol with connections to many cultures. In early Christianity it symbolised the Holy Trinity and can be seen in carvings in many churches and cathedrals. It was a symbol of the French Monarchy, appearing on banners and flags until the French Revolution. It was also used to show north on early charts.

The owners of Rosily Vineyard, Ken and Dot Allan and Mike and Barb Scott, recognised the importance of Rosily in the early discovery of Western Australia. He was an outstanding Cartographer and was part of St. Alouran’s party which took possession of Western Australia for France on the morning of 30th March 1772. Rosily produced an accurate chart of Shark Bay which showed the location of Dirk Hartog Island where they buried two bottles with charts sealed with a silver French coin and a lead seal.

Mike Scott, of Rosily Vineyard, has a keen interest in this maritime history having dived on or done exploration work on the Dutch shipwrecks ‘Gilt Dragon’, ‘Batavia’, ‘Zeewyk’ and the ‘Zuydtorp’. A colleague of Mike’s was Max Cramer who discovered the wreck of the Batavia. Max used the chart of Shark Bay drawn by Rosily and enlarged to same size as current maritime charts. He was amazed at the accuracy of this chart and used it in an expedition to find a bottle and coin left by Rosily’s party in March 1772.

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