Irish couple who won €127m EuroMillions jackpot ‘chuffed to bits’

Frances Connolly knitting a jumper on New Year’s Day when husband Patrick told her

Frances Connolly (52) and Patrick Connolly (54) from Moira, County Armagh won the €127m EuroMillions jackpot. Video: The National Lottery UK

 

The Co Down couple who won the €127 million (£115m) EuroMillions jackpot on New Year’s Day said they were “chuffed to bits” at being able to give away vast sums of their newly acquired wealth after winning.

Frances and Patrick Connolly have become the biggest winners on the island of Ireland topping Limerick woman Dolores McNamara’s €115 million in 2005 and are the fourth biggest UK winners ever .

Yesterday the couple from the village of Moira which straddles Co Down and Co Armagh celebrated their win with “a hug and a cup of tea”.

Patrick described the feeling of winning the jackpot as “unreal”, while Frances characterised it as “overwhelming”. “I don’t think it’s actually sunk in,” she added.

Frances (52), a former teacher, who has suffered with mobility issues in recent years, and Patrick (54), a businessman, who had been poised to take up a new role in Croydon, England, are taking stock of their life-changing news. They will be in touch with the 50 or so people on the list they have made about giving them money.

“It’s going to be so much fun,” Frances said. “The pleasure for me will be seeing their faces.”

Frances had been knitting a jumper on New Year’s Day when Patrick calmly asked her to look at the computer to confirm the win. He said “I think I’ve got some good news for you” and she said she thought “It must be more than £2.60”.

Prior to this, bubbly Frances said the only win she has ever had was “guessing the number of sweets in a jar” along with four others. “We are chuffed to bits,” she said. “Paddy does chuffed quietly.”

Charities

The couple, who lived in England for 25 years, want to support a community football team in Hartlepool, Belfast-based View magazine and a host of other good causes and charities they will be in touch with in due course.

They have plans for a holiday to Mauritius and two cars - an Alfa Romeo to replace his Renault Laguna and a Jaguar for her.

Frances wants to do a Phd, says she is “definitely retired” and “never leaving school again”. Patrick, who has a background in manufacturing, says he is no longer going to Croydon, that he will digest their lottery news but “it won’t last long” and he will be pursuing business projects in the future and creating jobs.

The pair are confident about the strength of their relationship and family, and have no concerns about the “sometimes dark side of a lottery win”.

On the intense media interest and people contacting them to ask for money, they say they are taking one day at at time.

“That is going to break my heart,” Frances said. “I am going to cry myself to sleep. I can’t help everybody. I really am. Hand on my heart I know that. That is going to be really tough.”

Going public

On going public with their news, Patrick says their preference would have been to “keep it quiet” but they knew it would not be possible. Prior to the win they were not rich but comfortable and “very happy”.

“Money doesn’t bring you happiness,” Frances said. “We were already happy. We were already blessed. This is just the icing on the cake.”

They have three grandchildren, two boys and a girl, and three daughters, one aged 30 and twins aged 24. One twin is in New Zealand doing a Masters degree. She will be travelling home and, during her stopover, has upgraded from a hostel to a modest hotel, her mother said.

The couple both went to Queen’s University Belfast and met at a wedding in 1989 and have been together for 30 years. She is from Glebe in Co Tyrone and he is from Belfast.

Industry sources expressed surprise that they had chosen to go public so soon after their big win although jackpot winners from the UK are traditionally more open about their good fortune than winners from the Republic.

In the UK, 15 per cent of lottery winners take the public route compared to just 5 per cent in the Republic.