Olga Kevelos

I was driving home from a film shoot last week, and was listening to ‘Last Word’ on Radio 4 when I heard the sad news that Olga Kevelos had passed away. I had met Olga earlier this year while working as sound recordist on a piece about the ‘Land Girls’ for The One Show, and was immediately struck by what a varied and fantastically interesting life she had led, as well as by what a friendly, intelligent and interesting woman she was.

We were filming for Real Life Media with Olga and two of her crewmates from the second world war when she and other young women took over running the barges up and down the canal system of Britain. They were known as ‘Idle Women’  - a title derived from the ‘IW’ emblazoned on their badge, but which actually stood for ‘Inland Waterways’, although the work they were required to do was intensive and hard by anyones standards.

We spent the day on an original barge used during the war, and Olga and two of her contemporaries talked about old times, and reminisced for the camera. It wasn’t until lunch that I found myself sitting next to Olga, and she began to tell me a little more about herself and her life. When I asked her what she did after the war I wasn’t entirely prepared for the reply I got; to paraphrase her slightly she said ‘After I left the Land Girls I became interested in motorcross - it started as a way to see my boyfriend at weekends at first, but I soon realised I enjoyed it and was quite good at it too - I won two gold medals’ … I didn’t quite know what to say - here was this sweet, twinkly eyed old lady with coiffured hair telling me that she had been a motorcross champion? I thought she might have been pulling my leg, but she continued; ‘I then ended up on Mastermind as a contestant’. When I asked her what her specialist subject was she replied ‘Ghengis Khan’… From what I can tell from other people who knew her much better than I, this was typical Olga - feisty, intelligent and with a cheeky sense of humour.

I only met Olga for a day, but in that time I was impressed by her drive and ability, the variety of her life and her obvious intelligence. There is more about her life and achievements in the obituary from the BBC which can be heard in the player below - for my part I am proud to have met her and learned a little about this extraordinary woman.

The clips of her talking about her time in the ‘Land Girls’ in this obituary were taken from the interview I recorded with her that day, and may well have been the last recorded interview with her. Below is a photo of us filming with Olga and her colleagues from the IW - Olga is the brown haired lady sitting in the middle on the boat.

Filming with Olga for The One Show

Filming with Olga for The One Show


  1. Tim Gibbes

    I rode moto-cross (scrambles) & enduro (Trials) around England & Europe from 1955 to 1963. Iam an Australian now living in New Zealand.
    I met Olga several times & in 1958 had the pleasure of taking her from Birmingham to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Southern Germany in my Vanguard pickup for the International Six Days Trial, where she was also a competitor.
    Although past her best as a competitor, she was great company & told us stories of the barges & the confrontations they had with regular barge skippers, the earlier races where women were unknown in the hurly burly world of scrambles & trials.
    In 1959, along with several other British trials riders, she went to the Polish Tatra 3 day Trial, one of the toughest events in which I’ve ridden.
    These were the days of the infamous “Iron Curtain”, so Western goods were rare in Poland. Olga swapped & gave away all her clothes she took on the trip, returning in the plane to UK with as she described to me “what you can see is all I have”!
    A great personality that had more behind it than met the eye!

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About me

I am a freelance sound recordist with over 10 years experience in tv & film. I studied location sound recording at the National Film & Television School in Beaconsfield, and have been working as a freelance sound recordist since 2004. I have my own full location recording kit, transport and a clean driving licence and am available for work across the UK and worldwide, with bases in London and Oxford.

I also teach Sound in various forms at the London Met Film School in Ealing Studios.

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