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The Reason Embankment Tube Station Has A Different 'Mind The Gap' Voice Is Brilliant

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The Reason Embankment Tube Station Has A Different 'Mind The Gap' Voice Is Brilliant

If you've ever travelled on the London Underground, you may have noticed something pretty special about the 'Mind the Gap' announcement.

While some stations have altered the voice over the years, one has largely remained the same, and the reason why is pretty incredible.

Get the tissues at the read for this one, you'll need them.

In a post to his Twitter account back in 2019, historian and journalist John Bull shared the story of Oswald Laurence.

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He wrote: "Just before Christmas 2012, staff at Embankment Tube station were approached by a woman who was very upset.

"She kept asking them where the voice had gone. They weren't sure what she meant. 

"'The voice?'

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"'The voice,' she said. 'The man who says 'Mind the gap''."

The staff reassured her that 'the voice' had simply been updated to a new digital system, with different voices added to offer more variety. 

But there was a very important reason as to why that voice had such special significance: it belonged to her husband.

Bull continued: "The woman, a GP called Dr Margaret McCollum, explained that her husband was an actor called Oswald Laurence.

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"Oswald had never become famous, but he HAD been the chap who had recorded all the Northern Line announcements back in the seventies. And Oswald had died in 2007."

Margaret and Oswald. Credit: BBC
Margaret and Oswald. Credit: BBC

After he passed away, Margaret found solace in the fact that she was able to hear his voice every day, on the way to work.

Sometimes, she would apparently sit on the platform at Embankment for a while and listen to his announcements.

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Bull explained that the staff at Embankment apologised, but told her that it was out of their hands. However, they promised Margaret that if the old recordings existed, they'd try and find a copy for her to keep. 

"In the New Year, Margaret McCollum sat on Embankment Station, on her way to work," Bull said

"And over the speakers she heard a familiar voice. The voice of a man she had loved so much, and never thought she'd hear again.

"'Mind the Gap' said Oswald Laurence."

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Embankment tube top. Credit: Alamy
Embankment tube top. Credit: Alamy

It turned out 'a lot of people' at Embankment, within the London Underground and Travel for London network, had also lost loved ones and wished they could hear their voices again.

And that is when they realised that they might just be able to make that happen for Margaret. 

Bull continued: "Archives were searched, old tapes found and restored. More people had worked to digitize them. Others had waded through the code of the announcement system to alter it while still more had sorted out the paperwork and got exemptions. And together they made Oswald talk again."

According to the BBC, Oswald's voice was used on the northbound Northern Line, but was phased out until only Embankment used it.

Oswald's voice returned in 2013. Credit: Alamy
Oswald's voice returned in 2013. Credit: Alamy

But in 2013 his voice was returned to the station, and Margaret was given that copy of the recording she was promised so she could listen to his voice again whenever she needed to.

"Transport for London were approached by the widow of Oswald Laurence to see whether she could get a copy of the iconic 'mind the gap' announcement her husband made over 40 years ago," said London Underground director Nigel Holness at the time.

"We were very touched by her story, so staff tracked down the recording and not only were they able to get a copy of the announcement on CD for her to keep but are also working to restore the announcement at Embankment station."

Maybe take a second to have a listen next time you're travelling through the stop.

Featured Image Credit: Alistair Laming/Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: UK News, London, Twitter, Viral

Jess Hardiman
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