A common theme among people who have been widowed is the debilitating effects of feeling completely alone, not sure how to cope with life without their other half. However, that is when the memories of the love of his life are more important than ever, as they mitigate the pain and comfort the heart in the face of the disconcerting absence.
It was thus that Margaret McCollum was able to move on without her loving husband. For Margaret, one recording in particular of the famous phrase “mind the gap” at London Underground’s Embankment station is what keeps the memory of her late husband, Oswald Laurence, alive.
Every day he goes to the subway station
The couple met in 1992 while on a cruise vacation, and it just so happened that Oswald was Margaret’s tour guide. The sparks were not long in coming, and eventually they became boyfriends and lived happily in London, but it was not until 2003 that they married, after spending more than eleven years together. Unfortunately, just four years later, Oswald lost his battle with cardiovascular problems and passed away in 2007.
Since then, the sad widow has come to the Embankment station every day to listen to the announcement of the northern line that her late husband recorded in the late 1950s. And although Oswald recorded thousands of announcements throughout his career, those of the metro are Margaret’s favourites, as they are the only ones where her lover’s voice is not altered and sounds just as she remembers it.
He has never been far from my head or my heart. Knowing that he could go and hear his voice was just wonderful. It was a great consolation. Sometimes I miss a couple of trains just so I can listen to it. Although he could do accents, it is his natural voice: clear, precise and authoritative.
– Margaret McCollum
The recording of her husband was removed from the station
However, in November 2012, Margaret was shocked when she heard a digital voice instead of her husband’s recording at the subway station. Oswald’s audio had apparently been removed from the station’s tape, so a stunned Margaret went to her city’s transportation offices to ask what had happened.
Margaret met with the staff of the London Transport company to have her husband’s announcements reinstated, as she did not want to forget his voice. After hearing the news, the company sent him a disc with the recording.
But the story did not end there, as the director of the London Underground, Nigel Holness, and the staff were so moved by her story that they decided to help Margaret keep the memory of her husband alive.
We were very moved by her story, so the staff tracked down the recording and not only were they able to get a CD copy of the ad for her to keep, but they are also working to restore the ad at Embankment Station.
– London Underground staff
It was then that the staff worked hard to find the files and restore the tapes so that on the first day of 2013, Margaret would hear her husband once again. Additionally, the workers created a ‘rule’ to honor Oswald and Margaret.
In her honor, and for Margaret, there is a rule that we let her voice play three times for each train before we make additional announcements.
She fell in love with her husband’s voice even before she met him
Margaret, who is now retired, dedicated almost 40 years of her life to the health service in London. Throughout her life, she has heard the voice of her husband, even before meeting him. Since then; the doctor always thought he had “the most beautiful voice”.
I always knew that even when he was gone, I could go and listen to him whenever I wanted.
Margaret’s story was made into a short film
Margaret’s story is so well known that a short film entitled mind the gap in his honour, which received recognition at the London Short Film Festival in 2015.