Mind the Gap Tube announcement returns after wife's plea

  • 9 March 2013
  • From the section London
Media captionMargaret McCollum used to go to Embankment station just to hear her husband's voice

A 40-year-old "mind the gap" recording once heard across the Tube is returning to one station - so the widow of the actor behind it can hear his voice.

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

Dr Margaret McCollum said she often uses the station and was devastated when "he wasn't there" in November.

She was given a copy of the recording after TfL heard she went to Embankment after his death to hear his voice.

After the request Transport for London bosses decided to restore the voiceover warning to Embankment station.

'Zest for life'

Dr McCollum, 65, a GP, met her theatre actor husband - a Rada graduate - in 1992 on a tour to Morocco, after he had left acting and was working for a tour and cruise company.

Image caption Margaret McCollum used to wait at Embankment station to hear Oswald Laurence's voice

The pair, who lived in north London, were together until his death in 2007.

"It was devastating to lose him. He had a great zest for life".

Dr McCollum said she used to frequently travel via Embankment and loved hearing her husband's voice, even when he was alive.

"Since he died I would sit and wait for the next train until I heard his voice.

"On 1 November he wasn't there. I was just stunned when Oswald wasn't there anymore.

"I inquired and I was told there was a new digital system and they could not get his voice on it."

But after hearing what the voice meant to Dr McCollum TfL arranged for a CD of the recording for her, which she says she listens to.

'Very proud'

London Underground director Nigel Holness said: "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."

Image caption Oswald Laurence was a theatre actor

TfL began using the "mind the gap" message from 1969.

The first voice used on the network was that of sound engineer Peter Lodge but several other voices have since been used, Tube expert Mark Mason said.

Mr Mason, who wrote 'Walk the Lines - the London Underground, Overground', said: "The famous original voice was that of Peter Lodge. Lodge was a recording engineer in a studio in Bayswater.

"An actor had done the recording but his agent was demanding royalties, which London Underground said it couldn't afford. So Peter Lodge had a go and that was used for years."

Actor Tim Bentinck was the voice on the Piccadilly Line for 15 years from 1990 and was paid £200 for various safety messages.

"My wife and children felt very proud whenever they heard it," he said.

"Judy works at Russell Square and when she heard me say 'mind the gap' she felt I was saying that to her. And my boys, Will and Jasper, used to say that they felt their father was watching out for them".

Mr Bentinck, who lives in Islington and uses the Piccadilly Line, said he always secretly hoped he would get a chance to "freak people" by saying "I warned you" if someone happened not to take note of the warnings.

"Its a very exclusive club, we 'mind the gappers'," he said.

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