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This story of how strangers helped one woman’s grief proves Christmas spirit is real

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Megan Murray
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This story of how kindness at Christmas reunited a woman with the voice of her late husband is simultaneously the loveliest and most heartbreaking thing you’ll read today. 

It’s often said that people become kinder at Christmas. It’s the time of year known for ‘good will among all (wo)men’ and people are more likely to look out for each other, because… well, because that’s what you do at Christmas, isn’t it?

Well, we now know this to be true, thanks to the actions of some of TFL’s kindest staff.

Historian and journalist John Bull, took to Twitter to share a thread about a woman who, in 2012, asked TFL to return the voice of her late husband to the underground.

The story has been brought back to light thanks to historian, journalist and Twitter user John Bull, who posted a thread about a woman who in 2012, asked TFL for help to return the voice of her late husband to the underground.

In the post, Bull writes: “It is election season. The world is busy and rubbish. But it is also Christmas. So, take a breather and let me tell you a story about London, trains, love and loss, and how small acts of kindness matter. I’m going to tell you about the voice at Embankment Tube station.”

“Just before Christmas 2012, staff at Embankment Tube station were approached by a woman who was very upset. She kept asking them where the voice had gone. They weren’t sure what she meant. The Voice? The voice, she said. The man who says ‘Mind the Gap,’” he continues. 

Bull goes on to explain that the train staff told the woman how the overhead voices had been modernised with a new digital system, meaning the old ones had all been replaced. “That voice” she said, “was my husband.”

The woman, a GP named Dr Margaret McCollum, had been married to Oswald. An actor by trade, Oswald sadly never become famous: however, he had recorded all of the Northern Line announcements back in the 1970s. After Oswald passed away in 2007, Margaret was devastated, but one thing had made her feel a little bit better – listening to his voice everyday on her commute.

Bull continues: “Sometimes, when it hurt too much, she explained, she’d just sit on the platform at Embankment and listen to the announcements for a bit longer.

“For five years, this had become her routine. She knew he wasn’t really there but his voice - the memory of him - was. To everyone else, it had just been another announcement. To HER it had been the ghost of the man she still loved. And now even that had gone.”

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While the underground staff felt for her, they explained that the entire underground system had been updated. They promised to try and see if there was anything they could do, but Margaret doubted that anything would happen.

But something did happen.

Bull writes: “In the New Year, Margaret McCollum sat on Embankment Station, on her way to work. And over the speakers she heard a familiar voice. The voice of a man she had loved so much, and never thought she’d hear again. ‘Mind the Gap’ said Oswald Laurence.

“Because it turned out a LOT of people at Embankment, within London Underground, within TfL and beyond had lost loved ones and wished they could hear them again. And they’d all realised that with luck, just this once, for one person, they might be able to make that happen.

“Archives were searched, old tapes found and restored. More people had worked to digitise them. Others had waded through the code of the announcement system to alter it while still more had sorted out the paperwork and got exemptions. And together they made Oswald talk again.

“And that is why today, even in 2019, if you go down to Embankment station in London, and sit on the northbound platform on Northern Line, you will here a COMPLETELY different voice say Mind the Gap to ANYWHERE else on the Underground. It’s Oswald. Merry Christmas everyone.”

Are you crying yet? We could absolutely see this being a sub plot in a Love Actually sequel.

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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