ACERT is saddened to hear of the passing of two stalwarts of the struggle for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights.
Peter Mercer MBE (22.1. 1934 – 17.1.2017) was the President of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and there are moving obituaries from Arthur Ivatts and Siobhan Spencer on their website. Thomas Acton has added:
From the beginning, Peter was a peacemaker within the Romani civil rights movement. He played a full role within both ACERT and the NGEC when those two organisations were at loggerheads, and simply refused to see their rivalry as relevant. He came to dominate the NGEC for one of its most productive decades in the 1980s before its change of direction under Charles Smith. Santino Spinelli’s nickname for him “The Gypsy Gentleman” summed up his character.
John Cole was also a gentleman, and worked quietly and tirelessly to support the education of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children in Liverpool. His line manager, Gill Rowlands, wrote on the 24th January that:
John passed away yesterday after a private and courageous fight against cancer over the last 12 months.
Liverpool colleagues working in schools, the local authority and more recently School Improvement Liverpool will miss John for many reasons. He gave unstintingly of his time to further and develop the interests of those involved in the education of some of the most vulnerable groups of learners and especially those from the various Traveller communities. His determined but gentle approaches encouraged sustained developments and improved outcomes for groups of young people who might otherwise have avoided formal education. John worked closely with Headteachers on many a sensitive issue with great success, building trust and confidence along the way. Always a real gentleman who took time to listen and to respond when anyone needed him and a true supporter of equal opportunities for all.
In losing John we have lost a true professional and a real friend, he will be sadly missed.