BUSBY, John (1765-1857)


BUSBY, John (1765-1857)
engineer
came of an old Northumberland family and was born at Alnwick in that county in 1765. He became a mineral surveyor and civil engineer in Scotland, and was engaged on various public works, including the providing of a water-supply for Leith fort. In December 1821 he applied for employment in New South Wales and Earl Bathurst, in a dispatch dated 31 July 1823, stated that he hoped "the arrangement with Mr Busby of which you will be informed will enable you to adopt measures for securing a better supply of water for the town of Sydney". Another dispatch dated 19 August enclosed a copy of the terms of engagement of Busby, who was to be mineral surveyor and civil engineer to the colony at a salary of £200 a year for 200 days in each year. Apparently he also had the right of private practice. He arrived at Sydney on 24 February 1824 and in June 1825 made an interesting report on the then state of the water-supply of Sydney, and suggested that a supply could be drawn from "the large lagoon in the vicinity of the paper mill" to a reservoir in Hyde Park from which it would be distributed throughout the city by pipes (H.R. of A., ser. I, vol. XI, p. 682). The mill referred to was in the neighbourhood of the present corner of Bourke- and Elizabeth-streets, Waterloo. In January 1826 he made a second report, in which he suggested expense could be saved by driving a tunnel into Sydney. This was begun, and in February 1829 Governor Darling (q.v.) stated in a dispatch that it was "quite impossible to dispense with Busby so long as the work in which he is employed introducing water into Sydney is in operation". Busby's salary had in the meantime been increased to £500 a year, and the colonial office had questioned the necessity of retaining his services any longer. The water-supply scheme was not completed until September 1837. It had involved the excavation of a tunnel about 12,000 feet long, but the proposed reservoir at Hyde Park with pipes throughout the city was not gone on with. Busby's appointment terminated on the completion of the waterworks, and in August 1838 the payment to him of a sum of £1000 was sanctioned by way of gratuity. He retired to the country on land on the Hunter which had been granted to him and died there on 10 May 1857. He married Sarah Kennedy and was survived by children. One of his sons, James Busby, is noticed separately.
E. Ramsden, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XXVI, p. 362; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. XI to XVII, XIX, XXVI; E. Ramsden, Busby of Waitangi.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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