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Friday, March 08, 2013

Tube's Original Mind The Gap Voice Returns

Celebrations during the 150th anniversary of the London Underground are continuing throughout the year. Whether it's coins, stamps, art, lectures or steam trains running on the Tube, it seems we can't get find enough ways to celebrate what the Underground means to us.  I just heard a delightful story (which in all likelihood has nothing to do with the 150th celebrations - but it's fitting it will happen this year anyway) - the shouty man is returning to London Underground.

Mind the Gap by shell_uk
When I originally wrote this blog post, it was reported that Peter Lodge, the man who did the original booming "Mind the Gap" announcements from the late 1960's - was returning to the system.   However it's actually Oswald Laurence's voice that is returning.

Nigel Holness, London Underground Director, 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 also working to restore the announcement at Embankment station.”  

Over the years his voice became as much part of the Tube as moquette and the roundel.  But gradually new recordings were introduced to the system and the only place where you could hear "the shouty man" was on the Northern Line's northbound platform at Embankment.

That was up until last year when it was replaced, much to the sadness of Oswald's widow who used to travel on the Tube to that station simply so she could hear his voice.  

However, London Underground in a fit of kindness, nostalgia and romanticism, have decided to re-instate his voice to Embankment, so not that his widow (and everyone else) can hear it. 

Peter Lodge also recorded a Mind the Gap announcement.  His son who commented on my post to say his mother sadly died a few years before Peter.  How Lodge came to record the announcement is re-told on  Mark Mason, author of Walk The Lines, blog.  He writes:  "An actor had already done a version, but his agent was demanding royalties every time it was played. London Underground replied, understandably, that it was going to be aired thousands of times a day across the system, and they couldn't possibly afford it. So someone from their office who had a nice voice was dispatched to do another version.

As the studio engineer, Peter Lodge, waited for him, he recorded himself saying it, just to get some microphone level. When Mr London Underground arrived Lodge played him the recording, and got the reply ‘that's as good as anything I could do, let's just use that'."

Good on London Underground for bringing Oswald's voice back and thanks to Peter's son for the correction and update to this story.

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