Burke & Wills Web
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020

Scottish, (1825 - 1886)

Born in Scotland in 1825, Landsborough died at Caloundra in Queensland in 1886.

Extract from Chapter 15 of The Explorers of Australia and their life-work
by Ernest Favenc,
Whitcombe & Tombs, Christchurch, 1908.

William Landsborough, the son of a Scotch physician, was born in Ayrshire and educated at Irvine. When he came to Australia, he settled first in the New England district of New South Wales, and thence removed to Queensland. In 1856, his interest in discovery and a desire to find new country led him to undertake much private exploration, principally on the coastal parts of Queensland, in the district of Broadsound and the Isaacs River. In 1858 he explored the Comet to its head, and in the following year the head waters of the Thomson.

An old friend and erstwhile comrade, writing of him, says: 'Landsborough's enterprise was entirely founded on self-reliance. He had neither Government aid nor capitalists at his back when he achieved his first success as an explorer. He was the very model of a pioneer - courageous, hardy, good-humoured, and kindly. He was an excellent horseman, a most entertaining and, at times, eccentric companion, and he could starve with greater cheerfulness than any man I ever saw or heard of. But, excellent fellow though he was, his very independence of character and success in exploring provoked much ill-will.'

Landsborough was recommended for the position of leader by the veteran A.C. Gregory, and on the 14th of August he left Brisbane in the SS Firefly, having on board a party of volunteer assistants who had been stirred by the widespread sympathy with the missing men to take an active part in the relief expedition. Unfortunately, those under Landsborough were, with one exception, unacquainted with bush life. The exception was George Bourne, the second in command, an old squatter who had seen and suffered many a drought, and whose services proved to be of great value. After some mishap the Firefly, convoyed by the Victoria, reached the mouth of the Albert River, where the party was safely landed.

After starting from the Albert, Landsborough came unexpectedly upon a river hitherto unknown. It flowed into the Nicholson, and both Leichhardt and Gregory had crossed below the confluence. It was a running stream with much semi-tropical foliage on its banks, running through well-grassed, level country, and he named it the Gregory. As they neared the higher reaches of the Gregory, they found the country of a more arid nature. They ascended the main range, and on the 21st of December, Landsborough found an inland river flowing south, which he named the Herbert. The Queensland authorities subsequently re-christened the stream with the singularly inappropriate name of Georgina. In this river two fine sheets of water were found, and called Lake Frances and Lake Mary. An ineffectual attempt was then made to go westward, but lack of water compelled them to desist.

Landsborough now returned to the Depot by way of the Gregory, and, on arriving there, learnt that Frederick Walker had been in and had reported having seen the tracks of Burke and Wills on the Flinders. Landsborough thereupon resolved to return by way of the Flinders, instead of going back by boat. They had very little provisions, but by reducing the number of the party, they managed to subsist on short allowance. On this second trip, he followed the Flinders up, and was rewarded by being the first white man to see the beautiful prairie-like country through which it flows. He named the remarkable isolated hills visible from the river Fort Bowen, Mount Brown and Mount Little. From the upper Flinders he struck south, hoping to come across a newly-formed station, but was disappointed, though he saw numerous horse-tracks showing that settlement was near at hand. At last after enduring a long period of semi-starvation, they reached the Warrego, and at the station of Neilson and Williams, first learnt the fate of those whom they had been seeking.

Landsborough was next appointed Resident at Burketown, and afterwards Inspector of Brands for the district of East Moreton. He died in 1886 due to injuries sustained after a fall from his horse.

Landsborough's Grave

Landsborough was originally buried at his property in Caloundra.
His second wife, had him reburied at Toowong Cemetery in 1913.

William Landsborough
Died at Caloundra and
originally buried here in 1886
Reinterred in Toowong
Cemetery June 13th 1913

Landsborough's Grave, Toowong Cemetery, Queensland

In Memory of William Landsborough
The Explorer
Born at Stephenstone Manse, Saltcoats, Scotland
21st Feb 1825

Died at Caloundra
16th March 1886

He traced several rivers of Queensland to their source
and crossed Australia from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Melbourne

Research Landsborough further with Trove...

www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix