William Montgomery Sandberg

William Montgomery Sandberg was born in Mayland on 5 November 1881 to parents William Otto Sandberg (Norwegian) and Hannah Crozier (Northern Irish).  William was the only surviving son of six sisters and was educated at Wellington Road School, Trinity Gardens.

William Sandberg with his sisters and daughter Millicent Ca 1930.
Photo courtesy of the Sandberg family

In 1907, William started his job as an Assistant Gardener at Adelaide Hospital. He married Olive Louise Cameron on 27 January 1912, and when he was promoted to Head Gardener and Gatekeeper in 1913, he and Louise moved into the Gatehouse on the hospital grounds.

William Montgomery Sandberg, Adelaide Hospital Ca 1910

William and Louise had three daughters (Millicent, Hannah Crozier “Nance” and Olive Margaret “Peg”), all born in the gatehouse.  The last daughter, Olive Margaret “Peg’s” birth in 1919 was attended by Matron Margaret Graham.

Millicent, Olive Margaret and Hannah Sandberg, Ca 1940

It was sort of a happy home and there were lawns. You would walk out our front door and just across the driveway and there were these lovely lawns and gardens. The driveway, the main one going down to the hospital, was always beautiful. It was all flowers on either side and tall ones at the back and there were lawns and there was a big bed in the middle of the lawn that would be at the back of the kiosk.

Olive Margaret ‘Peg’ Sandberg, Oral History 2003
Postcard showing the Adelaide Hospital’s main entrance gates with Gatekeeper’s cottage. 1900

After Peg’s birth, Louise suffered post-natal depression and was admitted to Parkside Mental Hospital where she lived until her death in October 1977 (57 years).  Every week, William took his three young daughters to visit their mother and he only missed one visit when he was in the hospital with quinsy.

Dad was wonderful, he made his own ice-cream, he had a churn, and he pickled onions

Olive Margaret ‘Peg’ Sandberg, Oral History 2003

When Peg was five, she went to live with an Aunt and Uncle in Prospect, and the two eldest daughters continued to live with their father at the Gatehouse.

There were two gardeners employed at the hospital, a Head Gardener and Gatekeeper and an Assistant Gardener.  Peg remembers one Assistant Gardner, who was very kind but only had one eye working, as he was blind in the other by an illness.

South-west corner of Frome Road and North Terrace intersection: Nurses Home (Margaret Graham Building) ,the Outpatients Building and Gatekeeper’s Cottage 1926. Photo courtesy of State Library of South Australia

William had a potting shed allocated to him on the hospital site where he kept all his tools and equipment.  The shed was also used to hand-rear all the seedlings for the garden.  The shed was located between the Nurses Home (Margaret Graham Building) and the Ophthalmology Block.

The Hospital horse was also the responsibility of William and had a small grazing field nearby the potting shed.

Another responsibility was to be on gate duty.  During the week, William would open the entrance and side gates at 6am and lock the main entrance gate at 8pm and side gates at 10pm.  On Sundays, he had to stand guard at the front entrance during visiting hours to help control the number of visitors.  William’s job was to check people in; those who had received a visitor’s card from the hospital.  He stood with the gate nearly closed, so only those with cards could go through.

A Sunday was the only day that dad had to stand at the gates and you couldn’t get in to see visitors because once a person was admitted you were given a visitor’s card

Olive Margaret ‘Peg’ Sandberg, Oral History 2003

Vehicles going into the hospital also had to receive a pass to get in. There was only very limited parking inside the hospital, however parking was available on North Terrace and Frome Road.  Although there wasn’t much traffic about, ambulances were the exception.  If an ambulance came in during the night (after 10pm), William had to get up and open the gates.

To build the new Casualty Building, the Gatekeepers lodge was knocked down in 1932.  William and his family moved out to St Peters.  To get into work, he would ride his bicycle back and forth.

Adelaide Hospital Gatehouse, 1932

On 28 October 1938, William was knocked down by a car while cycling home.  He suffered fatal head injuries and died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital.  William had worked at the hospital for 31 years and had been Head Gardener and Gatekeeper for 25 years.  Nursing staff in uniform and other hospital employees formed a line on North Terrace as the funeral passed by on the way to Cheltenham Cemetery.

In honour of his memory, the Royal Adelaide Hospital erected an arbour and dedication plaque.  When the hospital had a major redevelopment of the site in the 1960’s the arbour was demolished.  However, in 2003 the plaque was re-laid in the rose garden just outside the main entrance.  There the plaque stayed until the hospital moved sites in 2017 and was returned to the family.

Photo courtesy of Sandberg Family

Written by Margot Way, CALHN Health Museum

(Information sourced from Trove, History Trust, Ancestry, State Library of South Australia and SA Health Museum collection.  Copies of all newspaper articles and other relevant documents are available on request).