Why former Hartlepool couple have given more than half their £114m lottery winnings away
A couple who banked nearly £115m in the United Kingdom’s fourth biggest lottery win have revealed that they have given away more than half their fortune to friends, family and worthy causes.
Frances and Patrick Connolly, who lived in Hartlepool for a quarter of a century, have spoken publicly for the first time about how their lives have changed since their £114.9M EuroMillions windfall on New Year’s Day 2019.
The couple, who were living in their native Northern Ireland at the time of their triumph, have moved back to the North East to be nearer their daughters and founded their own Hartlepool charity to support people in the town.
Former teacher Frances, 54, said: “The people in Hartlepool are marvellous and really do know how to help each other.
"You only have to have a look at the response to the Giving Tree appeal in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre to see that at the end of a difficult year.
"We just wanted to do our bit for the town. We still consider it our home town and it’s the place where we brought up our family.”
The couple lived in the Rift House area between 1990-2015 and moved back first to rented accommodation in Wynyard before buying a five-bedroomed home elsewhere in the region – despite estate agent offers of both a castle and stately home.
They have also handed over around half their jackpot to 50 friends and family who were included on a list drawn up just hours after their win.
The mum of three, who still plays the lottery, said: “I always said we would help our family and friends if we won the lottery. It is just in our nature and we still have a comfortable life.”
That comfortable life, however, does not include retirement just yet.
Aside from their work with the Hartlepool-based PFC Trust, Frances and Patrick, 56, have bought three plastics businesses, with Frances adding: “I can start answering emails at 4.30am.
"We are too young to be sitting doing nothing and I do not feel our time to be useful is over.
"It is not about money. It is more about protecting jobs.”
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Frances would still visit Hartlepool regularly in her active role as PFC Trust chief executive.
She said people’s attitudes in town towards her have not changed, adding: “People from Hartlepool keep you grounded. They would treat the Queen the same as everyone else and I would not expect it to be any different.”
The trust assists local charities and groups already providing support within Hartlepool.
Examples include a £25,000 donation to HartlePower, based in Stranton, to install a lift so wheelchair users could reach its upstairs offices.
The couple have also personally bought hundreds of pairs of new pyjamas for OAP hospital patients during the Covid crisis and have already purchased dozens of computers as Christmas presents for need people.
As for Frances’s advice to future lottery winners, she said: “Enjoy it.
“We got a lot of advice at the time about taking your time over things. I appreciated all the advice and then I ignored it.
"You never know what is around the corner, particularly given the Covid situation in the last year.”
Further details about the PFC Trust is available at www.the-pfctrust.org.