Pioneer of South West wine industry dies

Co-founder of one of the first vineyards in the South West wine region of Western Australia Elizabeth “Betty” Killerby (nee Burt) died peacefully at her home on 27 April, aged 85.

Elizabeth and her late husband Dr Barry Killerby had vineyards near Capel Vale north of Busselton, and also between Evans & Tate and Pierro on Caves Road in Margaret River.

They planted their first Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz cuttings in 1973 and the couple followed the work of pioneering writer, John Gladstones, whose research in the late 60s led to the establishment of the Margaret River wine region.

Elizabeth and Barry struck gold in with their 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon which won seven trophies, and then had a string of chardonnays in the 1990s that were rated “Gold Five Stars – Among the Great Wines of the World” in the Little Gold Book.

Killerby Vineyards was eventually sold to Chinese-owned Ferngrove.

Wine writer Peter Forrestall, co-author of the wine book, The Way it Was: a history of the early days of the Margaret River wine industry, said of Elizabeth:

“I first met Betty Killerby when she was one of the state’s finest drama and public speaking teachers inculcating in her students a love of literature as well as the life-long gift of being able to speak in public with confidence. As matriarch, Betty’s foresight and flair, helped drive the family business as an important pioneer of the wine industry in the South-West.”

Elizabeth’s Royal Show successes were not confined to wine as she also won “Best of Breed” at the Sydney Royal Show for her prized British Bulldog.

She was a member of the Karrakatta Club, the University Club of Western Australia, and a founding member of the Geoff Christian Society at the West Coast Eagles.

Elizabeth is survived by her children Ben, Lisa, Anna and Kemp.

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