Bob-a-Day Park has a fascinating history and an enduring legacy for us all. Located in the south-eastern corner of the Prince Henry site, opposite the Aboriginal Health College on Harvey Street, Bob-A-Day is the smallest of our three historical parks.
The most significant contributors to modifying the original landscape here at Prince Henry were the ‘bob-a-day’ men, who began working at the Coast Hospital during the Great War. Inmates from the state hospitals at Lidcombe, Parramatta, Liverpool and George Street, bob-a-day men carried out labouring work in return for board, lodging, and a small remuneration payment. At the Coast Hospital, the payment of a ‘bob’ (one shilling or 10 cents) a day, was double the normal rate of sixpence (5 cents) a day for hospital work.
The bob-a-day men lived in huts on the southern end of the site that served as their living quarters and later became part of the St Michaels golf course clubhouse premises. Bob-a-day men undertook general work in the kitchen and hospital grounds, acted as messengers, and tended to all types of farm work within the hospital grounds. Their uniform comprised corduroy trousers, shirts of blue ‘government linen’, and boots − see original image at right.
Bob-a-day men were also responsible for landscaping around the dam that supplied fresh water for the hospital. By converting part of the dam and surrounding landscaping, the bob-a-day men created an ornamental lake, bordered by terraces of hydrangeas and replete with swans, peacocks, and deer.
Despite their toil having been obscured by the passage of time − the bob-a-day men worked on the hospital site until 1933 – their contribution was significant. Fittingly, during the planning phase of the Prince Henry site as we now know it, Bob-a-Day Park was created to commemorate the collective efforts of the bob-a-day men.
So friends, neighbours, and residents of our community, when you’re languishing under the trees at Bob-a-Day Park enjoying a picnic lunch, take a moment to reflect on the bob-a-day men and their contribution to this wonderful area we’re so fortunate to live in.
Margaret Betteridge of MUSEcape Pty Ltd (from a document prepared for Landcom)
A Coast Chronicle – The History of the Prince Henry Hospital, CR Boughton.
Author − Jane Bannister