Saturday 19 October 2019

'We celebrated with tea and a hug' - couple who scooped €130m EuroMillions win

  • 'We just stared at each other for ten minutes' - brand new millionaire Frances
  • Generous couple said they have approximately 50 people on their list to share their money
  • Patrick is looking forward to coming out of retirement - but wife Frances said she's now looking to retire and join the voluntary sector
  • Frances would also like to do a PhD
  • 'Not a living soul believed us' - Frances said their children or siblings didn't believe the news
Frances Connolly, 52, and Patrick Connolly, 54, from Moira, County Armagh in Northern Ireland, who scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw, during a photocall at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Holywood, Belfast, as they announce their win. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Frances Connolly, 52, and Patrick Connolly, 54, from Moira, County Armagh in Northern Ireland, who scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw, during a photocall at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Holywood, Belfast, as they announce their win. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Frances Connolly, 52, and Patrick Connolly, 54, from Moira, County Armagh in Northern Ireland, who scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Frances Connolly, 52, from Moira, County Armagh in Northern Ireland, who along with her husband Patrick Connolly scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw during a photocall at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Holywood, Belfast, as they announce their win. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Media at The Culloden Estate and Spa in Holywood, Belfast, ahead of a press conference to announce the couple who have scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw. Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Denise Calnan and Catherine Devine

Frances and Patrick Connolly, from Moira, Co Down, Northern Ireland, won the whopping EuroMillions jackpot on New Year’s Day, operator Camelot has said.

The couple, from Co Armagh, have started the new year with a bang after scooping the €129,645,665 jackpot from the New Year’s Day EuroMillions draw.

Frances Connolly, 52, and Patrick Connolly, 54, from Moira, County Armagh in Northern Ireland, who scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Frances Connolly, 52, and Patrick Connolly, 54, from Moira, County Armagh in Northern Ireland, who scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

And today they revealed they celebrated with "tea and a hug".

Their winning numbers were 01, 08, 11, 25, 28, with Lucky Stars 04 and 06.

General Manager Garrett Power (left) and concierge Trevor Kelso prepare champagne at The Culloden Estate and Spa in Holywood, Belfast. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
General Manager Garrett Power (left) and concierge Trevor Kelso prepare champagne at The Culloden Estate and Spa in Holywood, Belfast. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Speaking at a press conference in Belfast's Culloden Estate and Spa, Frances described the win this morning as "overwhelming".

"We do the National Lottery online, by direct debit," she continued.

"But with this Euromillions, I saw there's a big win, I'll get a ticket.

"Patrick got it and we forgot all about it."

Patrick described how he checked the numbers before bedtime.

"So we clicked on that, one lucky dip, obviously random numbers, checked the numbers and a little box came up and each of the numbers were ticked. I thought it was a scam, so I went onto the BBC website and the numbers were the same. So I checked a third website and, again, the same numbers.

"I didn't want to over-react, I said I'd better ask Frances to have a look at it."

Frances continued; "He said I think we've won. A couple of expletives later, which I'm trying not to say in front of you, I said 'it must be a joke'.

"He said, 'I wouldn't joke about that'.

"Then we just stared at each other for ten minutes.

Frances Connolly, 52, from Moira, County Armagh in Northern Ireland, who along with her husband Patrick Connolly scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw during a photocall at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Holywood, Belfast, as they announce their win. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Frances Connolly, 52, from Moira, County Armagh in Northern Ireland, who along with her husband Patrick Connolly scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw during a photocall at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Holywood, Belfast, as they announce their win. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

"Believing it in your head and acknowledging it, we did believe it, we're not daft, but it's acknowledging it that's different.

"We made a list of all the people we were going to give money to."

The couple said they have approximately 50 on their 'list' who they're set to share the money with.

"We have to do all the practical stuff. It might be a month before we do anything major for people."

Frances also said her husband is going to want to start a business in Northern Ireland.

"For the minute I'm retired, but I might do something else now," he said.

However, Frances said she is "definitely retiring" and wants to get involved in the voluntary sector. She said she would also love to do a PhD.

The couple said they didn't realise it would "happen so quickly". They told their children, siblings, a parent and a small number of friends but "not a living soul believed us".

They now plan to take a holiday to take some time to gather their thoughts, and said they will be sure to "enjoy every minute of it".

They also said they went public with the news because there's "too many people involved" and "it wouldn't have stayed a secret".

Earlier, the staff at the Northern Ireland hotel expressed their excitement at awaiting the arrival of the Connollys this morning.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Culloden Estate and Spa General Manager Garrett Power said the excitement is building.

"We look forward to their unveiling at the press conference," he said.

"It was extremely last minute, we were only informed last evening and we still haven't met the couple, but it's a lovely morning here and the excitement is building.

"It's a nice way to start January with a good news story. We're delighted for them."

Mr Power, originally from Kenmare in Co Kerry, said it's "hard to comprehend" the amount of money they've won overnight.

"We'll be able to find some champagne somewhere," he said.

"We are all eagerly awaiting the couple's arrival. The press are starting to arrive now and we're looking forward to a great day.

"We're delighted to be a part of a life-changing moment," he added.

Wins

The biggest every UK lottery prize is the £161m EuroMillions jackpot won by Chris and Colin Weir from North Ayrshire in July 2011, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

The Co Armagh winners will succeed Strabane woman Margaret Loughrey as Northern Ireland's biggest ever lottery winner. She won nearly £27m (€30m) in December 2013.

Other major winners include Belfast housewife Iris Jeffrey who was suffering from cancer when she won £20.4m (€22.6m) in July 2004.

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Former bus driver Peter Lavery

Former bus-driver Peter Lavery won £10.2m (€11.30m) on May 18, 1996, while Belfast woman Mary Hamilton won a EuroMillions jackpot of £12.9m (€14.3m) n November 2014.

Mr Lavery told BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme that he was delighted a couple from Northern Ireland had won the jackpot.

"They will be in disbelief, some days I'm still in disbelief. Everyone that plays has a chance of winning, you hope that some day it is you, when I won 33m people played it, but I was the winner," he said.

"You think you'll do A, B and C, but you end up doing X, Y and Z. It leads to different roads, I've enjoyed it and hope they can enjoy it too.

"It has changed my life, I've seen the world. They'll get plenty of people trying to give them advice, but they should just take stock for awhile and look after it."

He described how the win had changed his life.

"I was the driving the bus around Belfast on Sunday after I won on the Saturday, and on the Wednesday I was in St Lucia," Mr Lavery said.

"It was a massive, massive upheaval. It was just unbelievable how 72 hours can change your life."

Andy Carter, Senior Winners’ Advisor at The National Lottery said the win was the perfect start to the year.

"Imagine kicking off the new year with an extra €129m to your name," he said.

"What an amazing win and year ahead for one lucky UK ticket-holder.

"This win ranks at number four in the list of the biggest ever National Lottery winners and we look forward to helping them begin to enjoy their win."

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