William was born on 21st February 1825 in the Manse, Stevenston the son of Rev David Landsborough, naturalist and author and his wife Margaret McLeish. He and his brother David, later minister in Kilmarnock, attended Irvine Academy where they were both successful pupils winning prizes - David and William won joint second prize for Mathematics in 1839 and William won the prize for Drawing. They daily walked the 12 miles round trip to school.
He emigrated to Australia in 1841 following his two older brothers John and James, who were in New South Wales. He was a farmer and gold miner, making enough at the latter to buy a sheep station. He became an expert bushman and explored and named Mount Nebo in 1856. In 1857 he explored around Broad Sound, in 1858 the Comet and Nogao rivers and in 1858 with another explorer Stewart, the Bonar (Bowen) river. He also traced the Gregory and Herbert rivers to their sources.
In 1861, William was chosen by the Victoria and Queensland governments to lead a search for Robert O'Hara Burke and William Wills (other explorers of Australia) from the gulf of Carpentaria southwards. The journey was hazardous - shipwrecks, hostile Aborigines , lack of food being some of the dangers he and his party faced. The threat of flooding isolating his starving party caused him to return to Burketown in January 1862, before setting off again and discovering on 21 May 1862 at Williams station that Burke and Wills had perished. William continued his journey south to Melbourne and was feted as the first explorer to cross the continent from North to South.
Following his marriage to Caroline Hollingworth Raine on 30th December 1862, they left Australia for a trip to Britain. On 25 May 1863, the Royal Geographical Society, Burlington House, Piccadily, London presented him with a Gold Watch for his exploration in Australia. On 17th February 1864, William gave an entertaining lecture to a packed audience in the Free Church in Saltcoats about his experiences and explorations in Australia. The data he used shows vividly how Australia had grown in the time he was there "The great extent of Australia was nearly equal to Europe. 50 years ago the population was only a few thousands - now upwards of a million. Then whole exports were £100 now at twenty million yearly. Then a few thousands sheep now twenty millions". His brother David gave the benediction at the end of the lecture.
William was a member of the Legislative Council for Queensland, He was a police magistrate and Commissioner of Crown lands in Carpentaria. He was awarded £2000 by the government to reward him for his explorations. With this he bought lands an Loch Lamerough at Caloundra. He wrote a book about his expendition for Carpentaria and kept journals, which are held in the Oxley Library, Brisbane. After the death of his first wife, leaving him with 3 daughters, William married Maria Theresa Carr, nee Carter, in Brisbane on 8 March 1873, with whom he had 3 sons. He died on 16th March 1886 and was initially buried on his land but in 1913 his remains were moved to Toowong cemetery where a monument was erected in his honour. The Landsborough name continues to this day in Australia for example Counties of Landsborough in Queensland and New South Wales, town of Landsborough in the Sunshine Coast region and Parish of Landsborough in Flinders Shire as well as inlets and mountains.
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