The team of Westport English School
Assistant Director of Studies
Our English teachers for children
The story of how Westport English School came into existence
The following are the thoughts of Michael Lyons, the founder of the language school:
We already had everything we needed for our planned English language children’s school: the excellent teachers from Angol Intézet, the experiences of teaching English that we had accumulated over the years, our well-established procedures, a concept aligned with the needs of the young learners.
One important thing, however, was still missing: the name of the school.
We started brainstorming, and there were the usual words like “English”, “happy”, “speak”, “kids” and all the other frequent and commonplace phrases related to kids. We thought long and hard, but none of the proposed names cut it. We left it for a while and came back to it a little later, but still no breakthrough ideas would surface as a name for a language school specifically targeting children.
And then suddenly I thought of Westport, the small village in Ireland where my father was born. It is a wonderful place in County Mayo, located directly on the western coast of Ireland. Immediately, I knew that this would be it!
(Source: Liam Lyons, my father’s cousin)
Why Westport and what does this name mean in case of the language school?
In order to be able to answer this question, we need to go back in time a little. My great-grandparents were poor agricultural day labourers in Ireland, and therefore, it was quite a big deal when they were able to move to Westport, which was just a tiny village then.
My grandfather only finished primary school – this was where educational opportunities ended for most people at the time – but he had always been a hard-working and curious man. He read extensively, listened to the BBC news on the radio regularly, and was interested in the events of the world.
Eventually, he advanced one level further in society than his parents, as he became a successful travelling salesman. He was considered to be a wise, well-informed man in the village, and when someone had a question or a problem, they often asked for his opinion.
These were rather dire times, and so it was clear that education was the only way to gain a secure and respected life. For this reason, my grandfather would have preferred if his son became an engineer, as he regarded this a useful and creative profession; however, my father had no affinity for an engineering career, and therefore, after long years of hard work and studying, he “only” became a physician.
He was not the only one in the family who took this step, in my grandfather’s generation there were only medical doctors, but in my father’s generation, with his cousins included, there were already nine!
Until my father’s generation, the main emphasis was clearly on creating a secure livelihood and earning social respect. It was their hard work that created the luxury for the next generation – my brother, cousins and myself – to be able to think beyond these considerations when choosing a career path.
We were the first generation who could ask the question, without too much being at stake, what would I most like to do? What would make me happy? What am I interested in? What is it that I can do with passion and joy?
Of course, Westport has also come a long way since then. It was already a beautiful place when my father was a child, but there was still much poverty. Eventually, in the 1990s, a period of vigorous economic growth started in Ireland, which was often referred to in those days as the “Celtic Tiger”.
Hotels and golf courses were built, some major investment projects were realised, and the small town became an attractive and popular tourist destination.
It won the “Irish Tidy Towns Competition” on three occasions, and in 2012 it was also elected the most liveable town in Ireland. And everything that happened in Westport also reflected the development of the entire country: from one of the poorest countries of Europe, it has truly become a success story.
Similar processes have also occurred elsewhere. It is quite astonishing when you compare the opportunities that today’s children enjoy with those that the previous generations had. Just for the sake of an example, think about how old you were when you first sat on an aeroplane. How about your parents? And your kids? Put this question to a few people and you will certainly get some interesting answers.
These differences between generations are typical not only in Hungary or the region, but also in America and Western Europe.
There was a time when my father, ever so gently though, also encouraged me to study medicine. Eventually, I chose a different career, because I am much more oriented towards the humanities. Many years later he told me what a good idea it was that I followed my own path.
In the case of my own kids, it cannot yet be clearly seen what each of them will become or what paths they will choose.
So what does Westport mean to me?
On the one hand, it symbolises the possibility of rising through hard work and studying.
On the other hand, it reminds me that we should not force our own ideas onto children, but should rather provide them with all the conditions necessary for becoming happy and successful – love, safety, the chance to study and acquire usable language skills, etc. – and ultimately to let them find their own, unique paths to happiness and accomplishment.