‘Mind the Gap’

'Mind the gap' (Wikimedia Commons)
‘Mind the gap’ (Wikimedia Commons)

Many of you know already that Phil died on Thursday.  Though the news couldn’t be surprising, somehow the reality is shocking.  We mourned the man we knew and enjoyed spending time with: the family man, a husband, father, grandfather and uncle.  We remembered his wit, his generosity, his Sunday roasts, his techie skills and strongly-held opinions.  We wept.

Knowing that he’d been on regional radio and TV back in the ’70s and ’80s – before we knew him, Malcolm and I thought he’d qualify for a mention in the local press.

I first heard he’d made the national news when fellow-blogger Agnes Ashe told me.  I googled him. Over the next hours, articles from the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Daily Star tumbled into the search engine.  Then Spanish media.  Then sites in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, even the USA.

And all because this was the man whose voice any visitor to London will know.  The voice that admonishes you to ‘Mind the gap’ as you step from the platform onto the London Underground.

Ten years ago, just as Ellie was giving birth to their twin boys, the couple’s voice-over business won the contract to do a huge number of station announcements for the London Tube, with Phil’s deeper, masculine tones being required for the all-important ‘Mind the Gap’.

Phil followed this up by winning contracts to do similar announcements for South West Trains, the Southern Network and Northern Rail.  As we take the train on journeys through the UK, and in London, we’ll listen out for Ellie’s voice, or Phil’s, and excitedly text our friends when we hear them.  In the early days, when it was all very new, I accosted a porter on Wimbledon Station on hearing Phil’s voice announcing the arrival of the next train. ‘That’s my son-in-law, that is’.

So though he was never spotted in any visits to London or as he travelled round the country, his voice was known by millions.  That’s why he made the cut in the BBC Radio 4 and TV national news, and on BBC One’s North West programme yesterday, as well as further afield.

And just for a while, I found that my pride in his achievements, and the knowledge that his work would live on as a memorial for Ellie and the boys cut through the grief and brought a smile to my face.

Finally, for a bit of fun, here’s why Ellie and Phil are sometimes dubbed ‘Britain’s most apologetic couple

You’ve seen a picture of Phil in a previous post.  And as he’s known for being in a certain sense unknown, I thought this image of Ellie and Phil, take from their website, would be appropriate.sayer hamilton

 

Irritatingly, both German and Dutch reports use video of the only station in London, Embankment, that does not use Phil’s voice to advise people to ‘Mind the gap’.  This is in deference to the widow of the previous ‘voice’ who regularly uses this station.

27 thoughts on “‘Mind the Gap’”

  1. I hadn’t made the connection, we have friends in common. I’m so very sorry for your loss. So glad Ellie and the boys have you to support them at this dreadful time. Linda x

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  2. What a wonderful article, Margaret, I am so sorry to hear that you have lost such a lovely man and I am also sorry I didn’t make the connection when I read about him on Twitter and in The Guardian. How dense am I?! You are right to be proud and my thoughts are with you and your family.

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  3. Margaret – you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers in this difficult time. I have a friend who does similar voice overs – I’ve always wondered what those voices look like! Never imagined one of the voices would look like a gorilla! Peace.

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      1. I just have to say as somebody who listens to a lot of audiobooks, voice is everything and as I’ve been waiting at various tube stations I’ve often thought what a great, resonant voice and wondered if the man (I now know was Phil) had made any audiobook recordings. Voice actors have been most definitely underrated.

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  4. First, let me just say again how sorry I am that you all had to face this loss. So awful. Phil sounds like a fascinating guy! I hope they keep his voice saying “mind the gap” for many years to come.

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    1. I’m sure they will. It’s been so busy for my daughter ( media calling at all hours) that their feet haven’t touched the ground yet. Grieving will have to come later. So lovely for the family that others have happy memories of Phil too.

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  5. Margaret That was a moving tribute. I am still down here in OZ, but my thoughts are with you and the family. Best regards David David Wells, 21 St Marygate, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 1LX Tel +44(0)1765 690841 Mob +44(0)7785 228462

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  6. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. It must be so gratifying to have this public attention to the husband, father,son, man you all loved and admired. I wish you and your daughter and grandchildren all the best for the difficult moments ahead.

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    1. Thank you. It’s especially tough for my daughter and grandchildren, but the unexpected media interest, while tiring, was a lovely way for them to revive memories of better times.

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