Until recently it was thought that the first Olympian to attend Otago Girls’ High School was Ngaire Lane who participated in the 1948 Olympics.
Recently however, it was discovered that Kathleen Miller, New Zealand’s 19th Olympian, was the first Olympian to have attended Otago Girls’ High School. Her name has now been added to our Olympic Honours Board.
Nora Kathleen Miller was born on 24 April 1909 and was the daughter of Donald Miller and Annie Maria Lefevre who were married in 1898. Eleven months after Kathleen was born, her father Donald Miller died aged 46 of pneumonia. He left a wife and six daughters (born between 1899 and 1909) of whom Kathleen was the youngest.
Kathleen had her primary education at Palmerston, Kaikorai and High Street Schools and then she started at Otago Girls’ High School at the beginning of 1924 and remained there for two years. Her sisters Evelyn Margaret and Lilias Irene had both previously been pupils at Otago Girls’.
Kathleen was a member of the Kiwi Amateur Swimming Club and in 1926 was the New Zealand Intermediate 220 yards freestyle champion. In 1927 she won the 220 yards and 440 yards New Zealand senior women’s freestyle titles.
In 1928, Kathleen was one of three women (two swimmers and a sprinter) selected in the nine strong New Zealand Team to go to the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. This team included athlete Arthur Porritt who was later to become Governor General to New Zealand. She was the first Otago person to represent New Zealand at an Olympic Games and Kathleen’s mother Annie Miller went as the chaperone. The team left for the Olympics on 31 July 1928 and Kathleen competed in the 100m and 400m freestyle events.
After the Olympics Kathleen gave up competitive swimming and took up coaching. She also played representative hockey for Otago and Wellington. In 1940 she married Kenneth Albert McFarlane. Kathleen (Kay) McFarlane died at Wanganui in April 1963 - she had no children.
In the absence of any next of kin, her 1928 Olympic Participation pin, her numbered Olympian Certificate #19 and her Olympian Pin #19 were presented and are on display at Otago Girl's High School.