A kind-hearted couple have given away over half the £115million [Sh 17billion] lottery jackpot they won two years ago… and have no plans to stop.
Within hours of their staggering EuroMillions win on January 1, 2019, Frances and Patrick Connolly were drawing up a list for their giveaway, which has totalled £60m so far.
It included their three daughters, three grandchildren, eight siblings, 15 nieces and nephews, four great nieces and nephews, friends, charities and total strangers.
Given pride of place in their £2m home, in Hartlepool, Co Durham, is a scrapbook of thank-you cards, from poor children, OAPs and community groups.
This Christmas, ex-teacher Frances, 54, is again enjoying her role as a real-life Santa.
She has been busy buying 1,000 gifts for hospital patients, along with dozens of computers for good causes.
Paddy, who runs his own plastics firm, has invested in new starter ventures.
Between them, the couple support 42 jobs and they have given £1m each to set up charities – the PFC Trust in the North East, and the Kathleen Graham Foundation in their native Northern Ireland, named after Frances’ late mother.
“It was nothing to do with the size of the win,” said Frances of their giving.
“It is my nature.
“My husband always joked if I won I would give it all away – and he was right.”
They “decided very early” their daughters would not get “tens of millions”.
Frances said: “They got more than anybody else, they got enough to buy a house, and live comfortably, but they will have to work for anything else.
“They will get more when we die.
“The rest we will be giving to charity.”
She is proud of how Katrina, 32, a mum-of-two, Natalie, 25, a student, and her twin Fiona have also used their cash to help others.
“It is so satisfying to help people in need – I feel like I’ve won the lottery every day for two years,” said Frances.
“Some got £1m, and you are actually making them a jackpot winner.
“Others received £10,000, and they then did something which changed their lives.
“Every person then shared it with people they love.
“They would ring to say thank you, and it is such a great feeling.”
The couple joked there was “no way” of keeping the win secret.
After first telling her father, Frances phoned her siblings.
“In that time my dad phoned his sister and her husband had put it on the internet,” she said.
“It has worked out better.
“The press has been very kind and it means we can be completely open about the charity work.”
As for the trappings of wealth, Frances shrugs: “We are not jet-set.
“We do not want to go to lots of big parties.
“We like to have tea and watch telly like everyone else.
“We have 300 thank-you cards, and they are each a reminder of the power of the lottery and how it has changed not only our lives, but other people’s too.”