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

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

Ever noticed that the voice saying 'mind the gap' at Embankment tube station is different to the one at all other London underground stops? Who are we kidding - of course you haven't; you're too busy scrolling through Instagram like the rest of us!

Well, it's worth giving it a moment of your attention, as the story behind it is a bit of a tearjerker, which all revolves around a widow.

Historian and journalist John Bull shared the story online in a series of tweets, beginning: "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.

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"'The voice?'"

"'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 new voices and more variety.

But it turned out that the original voice held particular significance to her: it belonged to that of her husband.

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

"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 found solace in the fact that she was able to hear his voice every day, on the way to work.

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

Sometimes, she'd apparently just sit on the platform at Embankment and listen to the announcements for a bit longer.

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Bull explained that the staff at Embankment were 'apologetic', but the Underground's new digital system was out of their hands. However, they promised that if the old recordings existed, they'd try and find a copy for Margaret.

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

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"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."

Stock image of Embankment Station. Credit: PA
Stock image of Embankment Station. Credit: PA

It turned out 'a lot of people' at Embankment, within the London Underground and Travel for London network had lost loved ones and wished they could hear their voices again - which was when they realised that they might just be able to make that happen for Margaret.

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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 voice was used on the northbound Northern Line but was phased out until only Embankment used it.

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

London Underground director Nigel Holness said at the time: "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.

"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."

The story has now been brought back into the limelight after Bull's tweets went viral, providing the perfectly heartwarming tale we need for this time of year.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Viral, uk news, News

Jess Hardiman

Jess is a journalist at LADbible who graduated from Manchester University with a degree in Film Studies, English Language and Linguistics - indecisiveness at its finest, right there. She also works for FOODbible and its sister page Seitanists, which are both a safe haven for her to channel a love for homemade pasta, fennel and everything else in between. You can contact Jess at [email protected]