On the 23rd of July, 1773, Sir Thomas Brisbane – for whom the city of Brisbane, Australia is named – was born in Largs. He was born at Brisbane House to Sir Thomas and Dame Eleanora Brisbane. He studied astronomy and mathematics at Edinburgh University and in 1789 enlisted in the military, joining the British Army’s 38th Regiment. He was promoted to Major General in 1813 after a distinguished career in Flanders, North America and the West Indies. Whilst serving he formed a lasting friendship with Arthur Wellesley, later to become the Duke of Wellington and served under him in the Peninsular War – part of the Napoleonic Wars. During his military career he was awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB), the Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order (GCH), the Silver War Medal and the Army Gold Cross (also known as the Pennisular Gold Medal.)
He was knighted in 1815 and commanded a brigade in North America. He returned home in 1818 and married Anna Maria Makdougall from Roxburghshire in 1819. After his father-in-law died Brisbane took on his surname and from 1826 was known as Major General Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane.
It was due to Wellington’s recommendation in 1821 that Brisbane was appointed Governor of New South Wales. He was in office for 4 years and it was during this time that he authorised a convict settlement in Moreton Bay. Brisbane visited the place in 1824 and it was suggested that the nearby river and settlement be named after him. It was declared a town in 1834 and grew into the city known today as Brisbane.
He returned to Scotland in 1825 and was made Colonel of the 34th (Cumberland) Regiment. He was asked to command troops in Canada and in India but he declined both. He was a keen astronomer and built an observatory in Makerstoun near Kelso which was his wife’s estate and was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828. He succeeded Sir Walter Scott in becoming the president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1833 and was created a Baronet in 1836.
Brisbane had 4 children and died on 27th January 1860 in Brisbane House, Largs. He is buried in the Brisbane family vault in Skelmorlie Aisle. He gives his name to many things including Brisbane Street in Greenock, Noddsdale near Largs was renamed Brisbane Glen, the Thomas Mackdougall Bridge in Largs and even a crater on the moon called Brisbane!