It was on the first of November 2012, nearly 10 years ago, when Margaret McCollum was on her regular journey home via the London Underground subway system. As usual, she stopped at embankment station. Standing on the platform, she was listening for something very specific. It didn’t come. She was shocked and later described the moment as being “horrifying and completely, utterly devastating.”
What about not hearing a particular sound had been so distressing?
Margaret had been waiting for the usual voice making the “Mind The Gap” announcements when a train arrives. But the voice she was waiting for didn’t ring through the station as it always had. The voice had been changed that day.
This was likely no big deal for millions of Londoners. But it was for Margaret … because the voice she came to listen to at Embankment station was the voice of her beloved late husband, Oswald Laurence, an actor who had recorded the message with his iconic voice and intonation nearly 40 years ago.
Oswald had passed away in 2007. And since then, his daily “Mind The Gap” message was the only thing left of him. It served as a tenuous connection to her husband, a connection Margaret was holding onto so dearly.
Every day, she planned her commute in a way that allowed her to listen to his voice. “To know, on my way home, I could just stop at Embankment and hear Oswald’s voice was really very special!” For the five years since his death, she’d been coming to the station every day.
On that 1st of November 2012, everything changed.
“I was just stunned when Oswald wasn’t there anymore.”
She inquired with the Transport for London (TFL) and was initially told there was a new digital system and they could not transfer his voice to it. Margaret was in tears and close to giving up. But, in a last attempt to retrieve what was so dear to her, she went to the station staff … and that’s when a little miracle happened.
London Underground director, Nigel Holness, described it this way:
“Transport for London were approached by the widow of Oswald Laurence to see if 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, but they were also able to restore the announcement at Embankment station.”
So today, 10 years later, if you go down to Embankment station in London and stand on the northbound platform of the Northern Line, you will hear a completely different voice than any other Underground station in London saying, “Mind The Gap!” It’s Oswald Laurence’ voice, and I have to say it is pretty impressive. Check it out for yourself: https://youtube.com/shorts/ZvbXM63Pi54?feature=share
Why am I telling this story?
K I N D N E S S !
With a war raging in Europe, great uncertainty due to rising costs, a recession looming, and a tough winter ahead, I believe we all can do with a little kindness, the same kind of kindness and compassion the team at TFL showed by going out of their way to help and support a fellow human being in such a touching way. It certainly could not have been that easy to get internal approvals and ensure the technical recoding was properly digitised and put back online. But it was so worth it. The re-instalment of Oswald’s voice not only warmed Margaret’s heart, it’s warmed the hearts of millions of Londoners as the story was circulated through the print, social, and television media.
In his announcement, Oswald says, “MIND THE GAP,” but for me, the kind action by TFL has actually helped “BRIDGE THE GAP” … the gap between us as we struggle with our own occasional daily disasters, demons, and life’s little catastrophes. By showing kindness, TFL has helped connect many people through this heart-warming story. This is a true miracle for me.
My challenge for you today is simple. Show a little kindness to someone. It could be a stranger or someone you know very well, even someone you have not been in touch with for a long time. Reach out, say hello or just do a little good deed for the other person. And when you do it, smile and feel your own heart smiling and see how another heart is warming.
Even though the winter ahead will be freezing cold, it might just be these little acts of kindness that keep us warm, providing us with the real meaning of why we are here.
So, don’t mind the gap. Bridge the gap. Who knows, maybe you can make as big a difference as Oswald’s voice still does for Margaret at Embankment station!