EuroMillions fever hits ‘Lucky Island’
Everyone's a winner as Bere Island hits jackpot, writes Ralph Riegel
Bere Island, or 'Lucky Island' if you believe the headlines, sold out of National Lottery scratch cards as dozens swarmed to the west Cork hamlet in the wake of its EuroMillions coup.
Bere Islanders were yesterday left shaking their heads at a drama which not even local resident, Academy Award-winning director Neil Jordan would have scripted.
The island, which stares directly across at Jordan's idyllic villa on the Castletownbere shore, was mobbed by dozens who caught ferries across just to buy lottery scratch cards to share in the island's luck.
There was also a fair smattering of those who simply wanted to indulge in local gossip over the identity of the lucky winner of the €500,000 EuroMillions prize.
The island, with its population of just 200, found itself in the glare of not just the Irish media spotlight as it made global TV headlines thanks to its lottery win.
A QuickPick ticket, bought at the Bere Island Post Office in Lawrence Cove, delivered the €500,000 prize. In so doing, Mary Murphy's shop became the first island outlet anywhere in Europe to sell a major EuroMillions prize.
"We sold out of lottery cards on Tuesday. We had to get more delivered today. It has been amazing," she said.
Brendan Murphy, the local postman, did the delivery honours as he brought the post from the mainland on the 10am ferry.
"It's been great for the island. The excitement has been unreal over the past few days," admitted Brendan, a local star GAA player.
The importance of the potential economic spin-off is best underlined by the fact population pressures often mean Bere Island Junior B Gaelic football matches are played 13 or even 12 a-side as full teams cannot be fielded.
Local ferry operators Colm and Glen Harrington said the win is all everyone is talking about locally.
"I was at a boat show on business last weekend and everyone wrongly thought it was me," Colm laughed.
"We're not so good at winning money around here but we're very good at spending it."
In a community of just 200 - at least half of whom don't even play the lottery - the win sparked a frenzy over the winner's identity.
One UK media outlet dubbed it a modern-day version of 'Waking Ned', the hit 1998 comedy about an Irish lottery win.
Bere Island found itself at the centre of TV news bulletins in Canada, the US, England and Scotland.
In one bulletin, the island, with its stunning views of the Caha Mountains, Hungry Hill and the spectacular entrance to Bantry Bay, was simply dubbed 'Lucky Island'.
Edel Murphy, who operates Bere Island Lodge, hailed the lottery win as a tourism windfall.
"You couldn't buy the kind of publicity that Bere Island is getting these last few days," she said.
That was echoed by Bere Island Development Project officials John Walsh, Helen Riddell and Bernie Orpen.
"I think it has helped extend the tourism season for us. Normally things would be getting very quiet from this time but the lottery win has earned the island a lot of publicity and, hopefully, a lot of extra visitors," John explained.
The winning syndicate - reported to be a man and two women, all of whom work in the tourism sector - have insisted on remaining anonymous.
A posse of photographers and reporters waited for them by the 5pm ferry from Castletownbere on Tuesday when word first emerged from National Lottery headquarters in Dublin that the winnings had been collected.
But no-one sticks together quite like islanders and the trio had been tipped off long before they left Dublin.
"There'll probably be a party to celebrate the win but only islanders will know about it," one elderly local smiled.