Belfast Telegraph

£115m Lotto couple to give away millions to their family

By Stewart Robson

A Northern Ireland couple who scooped a £115m EuroMillions jackpot have told how they celebrated with a hug and a cup of tea - and now plan to share their good fortune with loved ones.

Five days ago, Patrick and Frances Connolly were just two ordinary people living in a rented property in Moira, Co Down.

Patrick and Frances Connolly from Moira, Co Down, celebrate yesterday after they scooped £115m in the EuroMillions draw
Patrick and Frances Connolly from Moira, Co Down, celebrate yesterday after they scooped £115m in the EuroMillions draw
Patrick and Frances Connolly from Moira, Co Down, celebrate yesterday after they scooped £115m in the EuroMillions draw
Patrick and Frances Connolly from Moira, Co Down, celebrate yesterday after they scooped £115m in the EuroMillions draw

But after checking their ticket, they realised they had become the fourth largest National Lottery winners ever.

After choosing a Lucky Dip on New Year's Day, the couple landed a mammoth £114,969,775 in the first EuroMillons draw of 2019.

It came just a week after they had won a slightly more modest £2.60 in the lottery.

News had broken on Thursday that the near £115m winning ticket was held by a couple in Northern Ireland.

And yesterday Frances (52) and Patrick (54) were unveiled at a Press conference at the lavish Culloden Hotel outside Belfast.

The finest Champagne was on ice, the cheque was signed and held in a golden envelope, and the cameras were ready to capture the smiles of the lucky couple, who have been together for 30 years.

Yesterday Frances revealed how they bought the ticket at the last minute.

"We do the National Lottery online, via direct debit, so never really bother checking it," she said. "We'd do the EuroMillions if it's a big roll-over or something.

"We were going to go and get the ticket on New Year's Eve, but I forgot. So on New Year's morning, we were sitting at the breakfast table and I said we were going to get a ticket.

"For some reason, I said to Paddy, 'Have you got it yet?'"

Patrick chose a Lucky Dip and forgot all about it until they were going to bed that night.

"Frances was watching television and I thought I'd just check my emails before bedtime," he recalled.

"There was nothing exciting. After that I remembered about the lottery numbers, something I don't normally do.

"I checked the numbers and each of them was ticked. I thought, right okay. I thought maybe it was a scam or I'm looking at the wrong page or something.

"I then went on to a second website and they were the same. I checked a third time, but again they were the same numbers."

While Patrick was trying to digest how the son of a postman and a joiner's daughter had suddenly won nearly £115m, Frances continued to calmly watch TV and knit in the living room.

"I didn't say anything," said Patrick. "I didn't want to get it wrong or overreact and thought I'd get Frances to have a look in case I was still missing something.

"I just turned the computer round to her and said, I've got news for you."

Frances turned her head round to see the screen with the winning lottery numbers staring back at her.

"I thought it must be more than £2.60, that's how much we won the week before," she said. "All that time we've been doing the National Lottery I don't think we've got three tenners from it.

"He said 'we've won'. I thought it was £1,000 or something like that. But he said, 'no you're misunderstanding me, we've won!'

"All of the conversations about, 'what would you do if', went out the window."

At around 1am, the couple received an email from Camelot stating that they were indeed the lucky, and only, winners of the draw.

"The only other thing I'd won, was guessing the number of sweets in a jar, and four people did the same thing," Frances said.

Despite having a list of things they would like to purchase, including a new car and a holiday to Mauritius, the couple explained how it was others who came to mind first.

Within 10 minutes, they had started to write a list of around 50 family members and friends who would be sharing in their new-found wealth.

"We had a hug, went out and had a cup of tea, came back in and sat on the sofa," Frances recalled. "I started my knitting because it was distracting me at that stage. I said, 'right, when are we starting the list?' I told him to get the pen and paper out, but he told me to do it because I was the person who wrote the lists.

"But I said for him to actually do the writing of it because it would then be our list."

The fortunate people selected by the couple still remain a secret, but Frances said that she can't wait to finally break the news to each of them.

She said: "This is a massive sum of money and we want it to have a huge impact on the lives of other people we know and love as well as on our future too.

"This win gives us the chance to really make a difference for our family and friends.

"I always hoped we would win the lottery one day, but when we did, it would be just our luck that lots of others would win on the same day with the same numbers too - never in my wildest dreams did I think we would ever win almost £115million."

For 24 years, Patrick who is originally from Belfast and his wife from The Glebe in Co Tyrone, lived in Hartlepool in the north-east of England.

Patrick worked as a factory manager and Frances is a qualified teacher but out of work currently as she continues to recover from a knee operation. After both studying at Queen's University, the multi-millionaires met at a friend's wedding from where their relationship blossomed.

The couple have three daughters, one aged 30 and twins aged 24. One twin is in New Zealand doing a Masters degree.

They also have three grandchildren, two boys and a girl.

Patrick added: "There was an opportunity at a factory in Hartlepool and the intention was to maybe stay a few years and move on. But 24 years later we were still there. Our twin girls were born there too."

Their daughters were amongst the first people to find out, along with Frances's father Frank, who lives in Essex.

Their eldest, Katrina Smith, told MailOnline: "I'm sure they'll share their money - but I'm not bothered about any, personally. If they said fifty thousand or a million, it is hard to comprehend.

£We've taught the kids that happiness is the most important thing. Money helps with things but money is not the most important."

She added: "It could not have happened to better people."

As part of their journey, the couple bought part of a business Patrick was working for after it offloaded workers to the Czech Republic. From that, Custom Profiles was born, until another organisation asked Patrick to come and work for them in Barnsley in Yorkshire.

The hard-working father would be there as well as working in Tipton near Birmingham before travelling back to the north-east to see his girls, who were still at school.

But, despite living in England for most of their adult life, the accent and attitude is still as Northern Irish as ever.

"My dad was a postman," said Patrick. "My mum worked in a hospital kitchen.

"They brought us up very well and gave us an opportunity, if we wanted to, to go to university. They looked after us and we were so appreciative of that. Hopefully we can pass that on," he added.

Frances said: "My dad was a joiner and my mum worked in kitchens. She sold things at different stages from the back of a car too. When I was very young, she was knitting Aran jumpers for export to America. I used to do 60 hours a week after school (helping her). I loved it.

"And we don't plan on joining any big jet-set thing. Now, that's saying I'll not be looking to go to a Grand Prix. This changes your life practically and it's silly to say that it wouldn't, and I'm really looking forward to that when I get my head round it.

"But we're from Northern Ireland. I can't even get rid of the accent and we've been away 24 years."

As well as family and friends benefiting from their generosity, Hartlepool-based football team St Francis will be given some of the money.

Meanwhile, Patrick doesn't want to waste his business-sense that has grown over the years.

"It would be great to use my expertise in Northern Ireland and grow that. But I've no idea exactly what I want to do at this present time," he added.

Asked whether they're going to need security now that their fortunes have increased, a witty Frances said: "I haven't met anybody I wouldn't take down myself."

She added: "I cannot see us being in the limelight for a long time. There are no skeletons, there are no dirty pictures, there is not enough to keep us in the public eye."

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

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