James Busby(1801-71) was a pioneer of viticulture in New South Wales, emigrating with his family from Britain in 1824. He had studied viticulture in France and took up property in the Hunter Valley. He published several works that were influential in the development of the wine industry in the new colony and in 1833, after a tour of Europe, donated a collection of vine cuttings to the colonial government. He became British Resident in New Zealand in 1833, where he was involved in drafting the Treaty of Waitangi.
James Busby was 23 when he migrated to Australia with his parents in 1824. He was granted 2000 acres in the Hunter River district where he established a vineyard. For his first three years in the colony, he taught viticulture at the Male Orphan School near Liverpool, New South Wales, where he oversaw the planting of another vineyard.
Busby wrote a number of works on viticulture, including A Manual of Plain Directions for Planting and Cultivating Vineyards and for Making Wine in New South Wales which was published in 1831. That same year he returned to England and subsequently toured the wine regions of Spain and France. During this time he collected hundreds of vine samples which were shipped to New South Wales aboard the Camden in 1833.
He donated the samples to the government, writing “It is my wish to place this collection of vines at the disposal of His Majesty’s Government, for the purpose, should it be deemed expedient, of forming an experimental garden at Sydney, to prove their different qualities, and propagate, for general distribution, those which may appear most suitable to the climate”
This gesture earned James Busby the title of “father of the Australian wine industry”. Although the vines planted in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens did not fare well, 365 duplicates were planted at his own property, Kirkton, in the Hunter Valley. After Busby sailed for New Zealand in April 1833 his brother-in-law William Kelman continued to tend the vineyard. The property was one of the sources of vine material for George Whydham’s Dalwood estate, the earliest commercial vineyard in the Hunter.