LONDON — A widow’s wish to hear her late husband’s voice again has prompted London’s subway system to restore a 40-year-old recording of the subway’s famous “mind the gap” announcement.
The Underground, also known as the Tube, tracked down the voice recording by Oswald Lawrence after his widow, Margaret McCollum, approached its staff and told them what it meant to her.
McCollum, 65, said Sunday she used to frequently visit Embankment station or plan her journeys around the stop to listen to Lawrence’s voice, even before his death in 2007. She was taken aback in November when she noticed it had been replaced by a different voice.
“For many, many years it was on the Embankment Station northbound platform. That’s a station I used a lot,” the retired doctor said.
Lawrence was a drama school graduate when he auditioned for the Tube recording, she said. He went on to become a theater actor and then worked for a tour and cruise company.
“After he died, I would stay on the platform, I would just sit and listen to it again,” she added. “It was a huge comfort. It was very special.”
When McCollum approached a Tube worker, she was told the station had a new broadcast system and it could not use the old recording anymore.
But Nigel Holness, director of London Underground, said its staff has been so moved by McCollum’s story that they dug up the recording and gave the widow a copy of the announcement on a CD for her to keep. Tube staff is also working to restore Lawrence’s announcement at the station, he added.
The Tube’s automated “mind the gap” messages, voiced by various actors, have accompanied countless London commuter journeys since the 1960s. Train drivers and staff made the warnings themselves before that.
London’s subway, the world’s first underground railway network, first opened in 1863. It is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
McCollum said she has been overwhelmed by the media attention to her story, and hoped that she could hear Lawrence’s voice in the Tube again soon.
“I’m very pleased in Oswald’s memory that people are interested,” she said. “He was a great London transport user all his life. He would be amused and touched and delighted to know he’s back where he belonged.”