Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You're French so you must know wine

Another family history story although I've taken liberties as this particular individual is not of my bloodline (father-in-law of my 3rd great grand uncle), but his story is so good and so very Australian that I couldn't resist.

Antone L'Andre was born in Nantes France in 1771. His father was Antoine and his mother Maria de Rivieau (keep this name in mind for later). It appears that Antone was captured when the vessel "Comte D'Artois" was captured by the British. On board this ship was 1st lieutenant John Poulden (take note of this surname too).

On 23 May 1800 the Royal Admiral sailed from Portsmouth, England bound for NSW. On board were two French prisoners of war: Francois de Riveau and his cousin Antone L'Andre. They were permitted to come to Australia from England on condition that they spent three years working in the vineyards and giving instructions on winemaking.

"The Landers Vine", by Peter G Christian, reports:

'Governor King received the following from the Duke of Portland that ..."as it appears the soil and climate of New south Wales are favourable to the culture of the grape, there will go out by the royal Admiral, two Frenchmen who were prisoners of war here, and who appear to have a perfect knowledge of the cultivation of the vineyard and the whole process of making wine..." (Ref. Historical Records of Australia).

'Governor King replied to the Duke on 10 March 1801. "The two Frenchmen arrived by the Royal Admiral, who, I observe by your Grace's letter, are sent to cultivate the vine, and making wine, not only for the Crown, but also promoting it on the part of individuals... I have directed the Commissary to pay them Sixty Pounds per year each, for a term of three years.)'

How they got this reputation as vignerons extrordinaires is open to speculation. Granted they were from Nantes on the Loire River and Nantes is famous for its Muscadet wine. However, since they had been languishing as prisoners in Portsmouth Castle, rumours of the newly discovered continent and the settlement of both prisoners and free persons must have been very attractive to the incarcerated. It's not hard to imagine the two cousins coming up with this (plausible) story and planning their future in a land thousands of miles from the cells of Portsmouth.

On that same voyage to Australia was a recent widow Ann Cook (nee Poulden) and her young son. It appears she may have become a widow on that voyage, such were the hazards of marine travel at that time. In any event, romance was somehow kindled on the voyage and two were married by the Reverend Samuel Marsden on 7 February, 1801 shortly after their arrival in the colony. His cousin Francois was a witness at the ceremony where he was listed Francois Durinault (Francois appeared to go under a number of names including de Riveau, Girault, and Durinault).

"The Landers Vine" also describes the cousins' progress with their vineyard:

'For three years Antoine and Francois tended the vines, and during that time several letters about the Frenchmen and their work, were written by King to the Duke of Portland and others. The first letter on 1 March 1802 said in part,"Referring your Grace to my former communications, respecting the two Frenchmen...they have planted one vineyard in as favourable a position as can be found - the plants are doing very well, but unfortunately those vines, that have been sometime planted, have been entirely blighted."

'On 30 October 1802, Governor King wrote to Lord Hogart: "As one of the Frenchmen is sufficient to manage the vines until enough grapes are produced to make wine, which cannot be for two or three years to come (if they succeed), I have employed the other (L'Andre, who is a good cooper) making casks... upwards of 12000 vine cuttings are planted on the side of a hill at Parramatta, formed like a crescent, facing the north which is the best exposition."

'In 1804 Governor King wrote to London: The two Frenchmen, natives of Nantz, who came out in 1800 to manage this object (making wine form grapes) knew very little of the business. They attempted last year to make wine from some of the best grapes that could be collected, but it turned out so bad, that I shall not trouble Your Lordship with the sample I entended sending; and as the Frenchmen had a promise of settling, or having a passage to England, altho' their conduct has not merited that indulgence, I have given one of them (Francois) his choice, the other with his own consent, I shall retain a year longer to see if his progress when left to himself, is better, as he last year made some very good cyder, from peaches, which are now getting very plentiful".'

So, perhaps, we have one of the earliest examples of the great Australian practitioner called the "bullshit artist". Although, to be fair, the terroir of the colony probably didn't resemble the Loire valley. It is noted that Antone was a skilled cooper, so his viticulture credentials may have been more valid than first suspected.

While Francois had to flee the colony, leaving his family behind, due to his participation in the Castle Hill Rebellion, Antone remained and thrived. He took up a land grant of land in the Prospect area, sold it, and bought another in the Parramatta area. His family flourished and established themselves as part of the young colony. Antone makes an appearance in the local newspaper after he was the victim of centipede's bite.

"On Tuesday last Mr. Landrin, of Parramatta, was stung on one of the fingers of the right hand by a centipede. In about an hour the wound festered and inflamed ; the finger began to swell : In the course of the following day several other festers made their appearance, the hand and arm swelled prodigiously, the inflammation hourly increased, the whole hand is now covered with an open wound, and the patient is in a most agonizing condition. We have before unfortunately had occasion to take notice of accidents proceeding from a similar cause; and we have as often prescribed a remedy, easy of attainment and efficacious in its operation. This a remedy universally applied in the West Indies to the sting or bite of this noxious reptile ; consisting of an embrocation made by putting centipedes and scorpions among spirits in a phial, a few drops of which rubbed well upon the affected part soon after the infliction of the wound, removes all pain and danger." 8 October, 1809 edition of the "Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser".

Antone survived his wound and died in 1811 at the age of 40, one month before the birth of his fourth child, Jane. After a service at St Phillips, Sydney, was interred in the Old Burial Ground (now the site of the Sydney Town Hall).

Postscript - The 18 March,1804 edition of the Sydney Gazette reported the departure of Francois owing to his involvement with the rebellion:

"Francois Girault, a Frenchman, in obedience to HIS EXCELLENCY's positive Command quitted the Colony in His Majesty's Ship Calcutta, having been charged on evidence strongly presumptive with secretly abetting and encouraging the late Revolt. "This man resided at Parramatta, and had for several months past devoted much of his time to trafficking as a pedlar to and from Castle Hill, during which intercourse he too probably obtained an undue influence among the people at that Settlement, and availing himself of an unhappy credulity, dessiminated gradually the seeds of dissention and discontent, but ingeniously in the end found means to avoid open detection and to escaped condign punishment."

Coincidentally, I have another relative who was on the other side of the Rebellion.

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