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Haverhill languages teacher Merces Castro says Elton John helped transform her life





As she looks to return to one-to-one lessons, an English teacher who grew up in a remote area of Brazil has credited music legend Elton John as being the man who 'changed my life'.

Now living in Weavers Lodge, Haverhill, Merces Castro ran a her own language school, one2one@me languages in London from 2005 to 2020, when she had to close it due to ill health.

Merces grew up in the town of Bebedouro, a then backwater in the district of Sao Paulo, Brazil and 390km from the city of the same name.

Merces Castro ran a language school in London for 15 years but had to close it due to her health. Now she wants to start teaching English to foreign language students again. Picture: Mecha Morton
Merces Castro ran a language school in London for 15 years but had to close it due to her health. Now she wants to start teaching English to foreign language students again. Picture: Mecha Morton

Having left school at 14 to help care for her mother, she harboured ambitions to be a teacher.

In 1973, she heard Elton John's song, Skyline Pigeon, on the radio, and it was a moment that changed her future.

Thanks to cash gifted to her by her grandma, Merces, now 68, bought a Linguaphone tape to help her learn English, and seven months later wrote her letter to Elton.

Merces Castro with Elton John in 1998. Contributed picture
Merces Castro with Elton John in 1998. Contributed picture

Merces explained: "I wrote this to his record company and my relatives said 'forget about it, you will never get a letter back'.

"About one month later I got a letter from his fan club because the record label forwarded my letter to them."

She began to correspond with the fan club, something that lasted from 1973 to 1979 and which helped her English to improve, and in 1984 Merces earned a place at the Cultura Inglesa Ribeirão, Unidade Centro, in Brazil, a school recognised by the British Consulate, where she studied English for two years.

After graduating from the course she came to England, and five years later, in 1991, she completed a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) before going on to open her language school, which operated out of Camden and Hampstead.

Merces ran a languages school in Hampstead and Camden, in London for 15 years. Contributed picture
Merces ran a languages school in Hampstead and Camden, in London for 15 years. Contributed picture

Prior to opening her school, Merces also lived for five years in Italy, where she would give private English lessons.

But there was one man whom she credits with being being the catalyst that altered her life for the better.

"Elton, he was the one who inspired me to learn English, because I loved his songs," said Merces.

"I think Elton John changed my life for the best because If it wasn't for him I would still be in Brazil living a miserable life."

In 1978, when Elton was very poorly, explained Merces, she wrote a letter to his fan club.

"I wrote to say I was praying for him and he sent me a letter to say thank you and it was signed by him."

She has gone on to meet him on a number of occasions, starting in 1998 at a concert in Manchester, saying: "He is a very down to earth man."

Merces now wants to return to doing the thing she loves most, teaching, on a one-to-one basis.

She can offer English tuition to Italian and Portuguese speakers, and intends to hold the lessons at The EpiCentre on Haverhill Research Park.

"I prefer to be active with something so that's why I want to come back to teaching," she said.

Working under the name M&E English Courses, Merces can be contacted at: merces@btinternet.com or on 07947474354.