Socialist Worker

Abby Kerr 1972-2008

by Helen Salmon
Issue No. 2127

Abby Kerr with Rosalie

Abby Kerr with Rosalie

Abby Kerr from south London died recently at the age of 36 from a cancer she had resisted for three years.

Abby first joined the SWP in Vauxhall when she was 18, and was active in branches across south London. She came from a family rooted in the socialist tradition.

Her parents were members of the International Socialists, the forerunner to the SWP, in the 1970s, and her uncle Hugh Kerr is a former Labour MEP, who is now in the Solidarity organisation in Scotland.

Abby lived with Chris Rowell, her partner of 14 years, and their daughter Rosalie.

Abby was a student activist at South Bank University, where she studied for an education degree. She then worked as a primary school teacher where she was an NUT teachers’ union rep.

Teachers at her school remember Abby as a quietly effective and inspirational NUT rep who led the union when the head was employing Russian teachers on lower wages and poorer terms and conditions than existing staff.

Abby fought against this by demanding equal conditions for the Russian teachers. For much of the past three years she had been on and off at work due to her chemotherapy treatment, but she was delighted to be back in work just in time to go on strike on 24 April this year.

Her socialism was about looking after people, caring, and having time for her friends and family. Her house was always full, especially during the Marxism festival , when she allocated out beds as if she was running a hotel.

Abby was widely loved. At the same time as her first tumour was diagnosed her mongrel dog Wolfie went missing for five weeks.

The homeless men from the parks near Abby’s home in Camberwell looked all over for him, because Abby had always spent time talking to them when she walked him.

Wolfie had been living with other homeless men, before finding his way to an animal rescue in Sussex where Abby’s next door neighbour worked.

Forgetting her cancer, Abby held a celebration party on the dog’s return, which filled her house.

Rosalie, who was born six years ago, was the part of Abby’s life that made her happiest. The thought that she might not be with Rosalie as she grows up was the thing that made Abby saddest about her illness.

Many people’s lasting memory of Abby will be of her sat by the fire in the Hermit’s Cave in Camberwell, pint of cider in hand, surrounded by people she talked to as old friends, even if they’d only just stumbled across her.

Our love and solidarity go to Chris, Rosalie, Anna and Callaghan, Jane and Duncan – and many friends, family and comrades across Britain who miss her very much.

Article information

Tue 11 Nov 2008, 18:22 GMT
Issue No. 2127
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