CHRISTMAS came early for the Bingham family when they picked up a cheque for close to €3.6m after winning last Saturday's National Lottery jackpot.
Retiree Gerry Bingham (65) and his wife Marie (64), from Dundalk, Co Louth, celebrated their good fortune with their three children, Alan (38), Gerard (31) and Niamh, (35); and their five grandchildren Laura (15), Sam (8), Emily (6), Alan (4) and Nathan (2), at the National Lottery headquarters in Dublin.
The couple appeared remarkably calm as they were handed a cheque for €3,595,140 which they will divide up amongst family members.
But Gerry admitted that his head has been spinning since he checked the winning numbers on teletext on Monday night and discovered that his €4 Quick Pick ticket won them the top prize.
Ironically, he learned yesterday when he went to pick up the prize that he had also won €3 from another line on the lucky ticket. "I'm not calm now," he joked.
On Monday night, Gerry learned that his worries about scraping by on a modest pension would soon be over.
He was made redundant from his job as a factory supervisor at Blackthorn Shoes in Dundalk after 39 years, when it closed in 2001.
And even though he got a job the following week at T&G Byrne Locksmiths in the town for the next eight years, money was a worry, he said.
But that's all behind him now after he bought his weekend lottery ticket as usual on Friday night at Carroll Newsagent in the Longwalk Shopping Centre in Dundalk.
After checking and re-checking the numbers, the couple celebrated with a couple of drinks and went to bed, waking up at dawn the next day thinking it was all a dream.
"I didn't believe it. I couldn't believe it," he said. "I rang the (Lotto) office on Tuesday morning and I said 'I need to speak to somebody quick because I have numbers here and I think we won the lotto," he said.