Permanent Tourist

The personal website of Mark Howells-Mead

Mind The Gap

If you can watch this video to the end without a tear in your eye, then you are tougher than I. It has reached the official selection for the 2015 London Short Film Festival and is based on a true story.

The following explanation was written in 2013 – originally in German – by Konstantin Binder for his blog London Leben.

Mind the Gap” is definitely one of the most well-known announcements in the London Underground. Some platforms have been built on curves, and at some stations, it’s recommended to be careful of the gap between the train and the platform. Especially it can be quite a fair-sized gap. The train driver originally warned passengers on arrival at appropriate stations, but this was deemed to be too cumbersome and time-consuming. An automated announcement was needed.

The story of the announcement is well-known amongst Tube fans. Originally, an actor was to read the short sentence but his agent demanded a recurring license fee. So the sound engineer Peter Lodge took to the microphone and recorded his own version. The Tube bosses were happy with the result and from the end of the 1960s, one began hearing “Mind the Gap” in the Tube stations.

As time progressed, new voices were heard. For example, that of actor Oswald Laurence, on the Northern Line. Laurence died in 2007; his wife Margaret McCullum used the Northern Line every day to travel into the city and loved the opportunity to hear his voice, both while he was still alive and especially after his death.

One day, his version of the announcement was retired. Mrs. McCullum enquired at Transport for London and found out that a new, digital system had been installed. She write to TfL and asked for a copy of the previous recording and received not only a CD containing the recording, but also news that it should be re-instated.

And that’s what happened.

So, Oswald Laurence reminds you in his own, perhaps slightly old-fashioned way, to take care by boarding and exiting the train at Embankment station on the northbound Northern Line. As it has been for decades.

And Mrs. McCullum will once again sit on the platform and wait for several trains, in order to hear the voice of the husband with whom she spent fifteen years of her life.

2 responses to “Mind The Gap”

  1. Habi avatar

    Tears were shed!

  2. joggermum avatar

    So moving

    Reminds me that SJ used to phone Sarah’s phone just to hear the answerphone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google’s reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.