8 August 2007
She endured the death of two of her sons, then fought to put gun deaths at the top of the political agenda. But, as a child, Peckham’s Lucy Cope saw her own mother suffer, writes Stephen Eighteen...
Peckham resident Lucy set up the acclaimed Mothers Against Guns group in 2002 after her son Damian was shot dead at a West End club in July of that year.
The tragedy was the last straw for Lucy, coming four years after the eldest of her eight children, Sean, died in a family accident in Walworth.
After three trials Sean's brother Michael was found not guilty of committing murder and manslaughter.
Mothers Against Guns provided a voice to people like herself who had previously felt powerless after losing a loved one in a hail of bullets, and the group organised police-backed campaigns and marches.
Yet what also inspired Lucy to empower mothers, aside from her own heartache, were the experiences of the woman who brought her into the world.
Lucy was born in 1955 in Ayrshire, Scotland, as one of eight children. As a youngster she fondly remembers summer days spent with her siblings picking up pop bottles from the west coast of Scotland and selling them to the local shop for a penny each.
Less warm, however, are her recollections of mother Ann Gilmour-Kerr's treatment at the hands of father Henry Wallace-Kerr.
"Growing up in Scotland reminds me of Angela's Ashes," remarked Lucy. "I remember there being a big fuss when the pits closed down with demonstrations.
"Dad worked at the pits and from then there was no money coming into the home and we used to take the pressure of by going to the beach and getting two bob a day. He treated mum really bad. He used to drink and was violent towards her but she was a fantastic mother.
"She used to be a bus conductor and cleaned part time just to give us some sort of stability. She did everything for us.
"But my mum's been an inspiration to me as she showed me the strength to fight back and to show courage."
After the family moved to Nottingham, Ann was once again put under pressure - this time by a source that would become depressingly familiar in Lucy's life.
It was the early 1980s and Ann worked at a local bingo hall. "Some robbers came in and had my mum at gun point," Lucy said. "All of the staff had to lie on the floor for 15 minutes. She was told off by the manager for opening the safe and letting the guys have the money so she left the job.
"That was the first armed robbery ever committed in Nottingham - little did I know that years and years down the line I would be fighting gun crime as a mother."
By that time Lucy had lived in London for five years. She left Nottingham ironically because of fears about the escalation of gang crime.
She moved to Wandsworth with her Jamaican partner Winston Lloyd Cope and their first child Sean. Jonathan, Damian, Darran, Adrian and Tristan followed, before Winston died of sickle cell anaemia.
By this stage Lucy had moved to the Bells Garden Estate in Peckham, where she would have her first daughters, Paisley and Perice, with her partner Horace Barnes.
After a spell in Walworth, Lucy is now living in Peckham, in a vicinity that came to prominence in February with the stabbing of fifteen-year-old Michael Dosunmu at his home in Diamond Street. Yet she insists that her home will remain in Peckham.
"If I could turn back the hands of time I'd have never left Scotland.
"But this is where I am now and some people would want to move out, but I would never consider it. If it was not for Mothers Against Guns I probably would not be here to tell the story. We all knew gun crime was not spoken about until the death of Damian Cope, but if anything it has raised it to its highest level of understanding and we managed to change legislation. It has had a massive impact on the government, police and local communities."
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