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Biographical entry Busby, John (1765 - 1857)

24 March 1765
Alnwick, Northumberland, England
10 May 1857
Hunter River, New South Wales, Australia
Civil engineer and Mineral surveyor


John Busby supervised coal-mining at Newcastle and devised a water supply for Sydney. The tunnel scheme from Hyde Park, completed in 1837, became known as Busby's Bore.


Born Alnwick, Northumberland, England, 24 March 1765. Died Hunter River, 10 May 1857. Coal miner; mine manager; mineral surveyor and engineer in England, Scotland and Ireland; arrived Sydney 1824 to take up duty 'in the management of the Coal Mines, in supplying the Town of Sydney with water, and in objects of a similar nature'; surveyed for water and coal in Hobart Town while the ship to Sydney was docked there for several weeks during the voyage; reported on coal deposits near Newcastle for the Australian Agricultural Company 1826; constructed Sydney's first regular water supply 1827-37, with help from his youngest son William. Before coming to Australia he won two awards in Scotland, one for inventing machinery for ascertaining the nature of rock strata by boring, the other for a method of sinking through quicksands, clay and gravel beds. Father of George and James Busby (qq.v.)

Archival resources

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • John Busby - Records, 1826 - 1864, FM 4/2116; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

Published resources

Book Sections


See also

  • Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Technology in Australia 1788-1988, Online edn, Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, Melbourne, 3 May 2000, Details
  • Brewer, J. D., 'Road Tunnel Versus Busby's Bore', in Fourth National Conference on Engineering Heritage 1988: Preprints of Papers (Barton, Australian Capital Territory: Institution of Engineers, Australia, 1988), pp. 1-7..;dn=623421359570021;res=IELENG. Details
  • Brewer, J. D., 'Road tunnel versus Busby's Bore', Transactions of Multi-disciplinary Engineering, Australia, GE14 (1) (1990), 1-7. Details
  • Dale, M. J., Burgess, P. J., 'Bushby's [Busby's] bore - Sydney's second water supply', Australian Geomechanics, 15 (June 1988) (1988), 13-16. Details
  • Engineers Australia, Wonders never cease: 100 Australian engineering achievements (Barton, Australian Capital Territory: Institution of Engineers, Australia, 2019), 236 pp. p.6. Busby's Bore. Details
  • Institution of Engineers, Australia. Sydney Division. Engineering Heritage Committee, The Historic Engineering Plaques of Australia (Milsons Point, New South Wales: The Institution of Engineers, Australia, 1994), 38 pp. p.4. Busby's Bore, Army Museum, Victoria Barracks, Sydney, N.S.W. Details

McCarthy, G.J.