Ngaire Lane


Ngaire Galloway, nee Lane, who lived in Nelson from the 1950's, was New Zealand's oldest living Olympian, until she passed away in July 2021.  She was an "inspirational  swimmer" who competed in the 1948 London Olympics.

Ngaire Lane with M. Ingram 1948. ODT Collection University of Otago

Ngaire Lane with M. Ingram 1948. ODT Collection University of Otago

She was born Ngaire Lane in Cambridge, New Zealand, on 31 October 1925, the daughter of Mabel Doris Lane (née Saxby) and William George Lane1 and was educated at Otago Girls' High School.2 Swimming was a passion from an early age, and Ngaire excelled. In 1940, she became the New Zealand junior champion in 50 and 100 yards freestyle and 50 yards backstroke, equaling the national junior record in the latter event. In 1943 she broke the national intermediate 100 yards backstroke record, and the following year she broke the national senior record for 220 yards backstroke, thus becoming the first female swimmer to hold junior, intermediate and senior national records concurrently. She was the national champion for the 100 yards and 220 yards backstroke every year from 1944 to 1949, and in 1947 she also won the 100 yards medley and 50 yards freestyle titles.3

In 1948, Ngaire was selected as the only swimmer and only woman on the New Zealand Olympic team. It was challenging to keep up a training programme on the long voyage by ship to London presented a challenge, however the ship's carpenter built her a two-metre long oblong box, lined it with canvas and filled it with seawater each day, so she could lie on her back and practice her kick.4

ngaire galloway

Ngaire Lane with the 1948 NZ Olympic team, Nelson PhotoNews No 87 February 10, 1968, p.64

On arrival, she swam in the 1948 ASA British Championships 110 yards backstroke and won the event.5 Unfortunately she did not repeat this success at the Olympics, but she did well, reaching the the semi-finals of the 100 m backstroke, where she finished seventh in a time of 1:19.0. and 11th overall.6  And this in a borrowed swimming costume.7 At the conclusion of the Olympic swim meet, Lane was part of an Australasian team that finished third in the 4 × 100 m freestyle relay at the Continental Relay Gala.8

Ngaire returned to New Zealand in 1949 and continued to dominate backstroke swimming, winning the New Zealand 100 and 220 yards titles for the sixth successive year, setting a new record in the latter event. In year she returned from the Olympics, Ngaire married Kenneth Miller Galloway, a medical student at the University of Otago from Thames.9  Kenneth died in 2007.10

After her marriage, Ngaire retired from competitive swimming, but retained an active interest in New Zealand swimming through the New Zealand Olympic Committee. In 2011, she was inducted into Nelson's Legends of Sport.11 Swimming success continues in the family. In 2017 Ngaire's granddaughter, Gina Galloway, won a bronze medal in the 100 m backstroke at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games and competed at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics.12

Ngaire's achievement lives on in Nelson. In 1996 a street and walkway (respectively Ngaire Place and Ngaire Lane) beside Nelson's Riverside Pool, were named after Ngaire with her permission, in recognition of her representing New Zealand at the 1948 Olympics as a swimmer.  

Ngaire Galloway died in Nelson on July 8 at the age of 95.13

2020 (updated 2021)

Sources used in this story

  1. Birth (1925, November 3) Waikato Independent. 3 November 1925. p. 1.
  2. McMurran, Alistair (2009, November 20). Otago Girls High School honours its Olympians. Otago Daily Times
  3. Nelson Legends of Sport — Ngaire Galloway". Sport Tasman. Retrieved from
  4. Neal, Tracey (21 September 2018). It's all swimming in the Galloway Family. Radio New Zealand: New Zealand
  5. Swimming (1948, July 12) Time, p.2 Times, 12 July 1948, p. 2. Times Digital Archive.
  6. Ngaire Lane bio, stats, and results. Retrieved 25 September 2020:.
  7. Neal, Tracey
  8. Nelson Legends of Sport
  9. Olympic swimmer married (1949, May 26). Gisborne Herald. p. 7:
  10. Plot record details. Nelson City Council cemeteries database:
  11. Nelson Legends of Sport
  12. New Zealand swimmer makes Olympian grandmother proud. XinhuaNet Retrieved 24 October 2018
  13. Newman, T. (2021, July 15) New Zealand's oldest Olympian passes away. Nelson Mail on Stuff:

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