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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Busby, William (1813–1887)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

William Busby (1813-1887), by Freeman & Co., 1870-1882

William Busby (1813-1887), by Freeman & Co., 1870-1882

State Library of New South Wales, Original: PXE 893

William Busby (1813-1887), pastoralist and politician, was born on 15 January 1813 in England, the sixth son of John Busby and his wife Sarah, née Kennedy. He arrived with his parents at Sydney in the Triton in February 1824. In May 1831 he was employed by his father, without government pay, on a two-mile (3.2 km) tunnel from the Lachlan Swamp to Hyde Park, designed to provide Sydney with a regular water supply. In 1834, because of the failure of his father to expedite the project, William was appointed by Governor (Sir) Richard Bourke as overseer to this costly enterprise, at £200 a year to be deducted from his father's salary. On the completion of the water scheme in 1837 Busby devoted himself to pastoral affairs, he and an elder brother Alexander (1808-1873) taking up land in the County of Bligh. By 1885 he had acquired 42,000 acres (16,997 ha) near Cassilis which in that year carried 17,000 sheep. This property, Dalkeith, was also noted as a horse stud.

Busby was appointed a life member of the New South Wales Legislative Council in July 1867, but like many other members his political career was not marked by any conspicuous service; in the second half of his term of office he rarely attended the council. He was, however, active in the Agricultural Society of New South Wales, a director of the Mercantile Bank of Sydney; and an early member of the Australian Club in Sydney; apart from these interests he had few others outside his family and his grazing pursuits. In 1875 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of New South Wales.

On 20 December 1856 at St James's Church, Sydney, he married Catherine Anne, only daughter of Thomas Woore of Pomeroy, Goulburn; they had four sons and eight daughters. The eldest son Thomas Woore Frederick (1859-1941) married Augusta Eliza Mitchell, eldest daughter of Edward Merewether. William Busby died at his Sydney residence, Redleaf, Double Bay, on 23 June 1887 and was buried in St Jude's churchyard, Randwick; he was survived by his wife and nine children. His estate was sworn for probate at more than £106,000.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 17, 19, 26
  • Committee on the Tunnel for Conducting Water into the Town of Sydney, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Council, New South Wales), 1837
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Dec 1856, 25 June 1887.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Busby, William (1813–1887)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 19 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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