Mind The Gap! The Forgotten Tube Pioneer, Minnie Smith

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By M@
Mind The Gap! The Forgotten Tube Pioneer, Minnie Smith

London Underground's "Mind the Gap" warnings are older than we thought.

"Mind the Gap" is famous throughout the world as a catchphrase of the London Underground. But where did it come from?

Credit for the phrase is usually given to Peter Lodge, around 1968. The sound engineer recorded his own voice for the network after the hired voice-artist started requesting royalties. Or so the story goes.

The other person associated with the warning is Oswald Lawrence. His stentorian tones, used on the Northern line, are the ones you can probably recall in your head. His announcements were withdrawn a few years ago, only to be reinstated after an appeal from his widow Margaret. This touching video tells that story.

But one earlier announcer has been forgotten from this niche bit of transport history: Minnie Smith

Minnie "Mind the Gap" Smith

Meet Minnie Smith of Peckham, a 61-year-old platform attendant who worked at Charing Cross. In February 1961, Minnie's shouting skills were called into question by no lesser figure than a High Court judge.

Three years earlier, a passenger named Lilian East had slipped down the 8-inch platform gap while attempting to board a tube train. The injured lady later took London Transport to court, claiming negligence and seeking damages.

But the transport authority argued that due warning had been given. Their employee Minnie Smith had "the best shouting voice at Charing Cross", and had called out "Mind the Gap!" several times before the incident, as per instruction.

The judge, Mr Justice Veale, found in London Transport's favour. Their star employee was dubbed "Little Minnie with the Mighty Voice" by the Daily Mirror. "I just naturally happen to have a loud voice," she told the paper. "My husband... used to say he couldn't get a word in against me".

The incident happened in 1957, showing that the "Mind the Gap!" phrase was in use by London Transport employees more than a decade before its recording by Peter Lodge.

Source: Daily Mirror, 1 March 1961. Accessed via the British Newspaper Archive.

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Last Updated 15 January 2020