All too often they turn out to be ne'er-do-wells, criminals with a past of car theft or messy private lives.But a Belfast housewife with cancer has proved that Lottery winners can have both respectable lives and good causes on which to spend their new fortune.
Iris Jeffrey, 58, plans to spend much of her £20.1m jackpot - the biggest individual win - on the search for a cure for her illness. She only realised she had won on Wednesday - three weeks after the draw - when the National Lottery operators Camelot asked for the winner to come forward.
Mrs Jeffrey checked the numbers on a cupboard at the terraced home in north Belfast she shares with her retired husband Robert, 62, a former floor-layer. She recalled: "I thought that I had all six but could really not believe it so I asked my daughter Wendy to check for me. When she confirmed the win, I said: 'Oh I've won, that's nice.' I really don't think I realised quite what had happened."
The prize is the second largest in Lottery history, after the £22.5m won by the double-glazing partners Paul Maddison and Mark Gardiner in 1995.
At a press conference yesterday, Mrs Jeffrey said that the money would not change her life, except that foreign medical treatment might now save it.
The former home-help, who was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in April, has been undergoing chemotherapy as she waits for an operation. Even though she praised the care she has received on the NHS, she said she might have to look overseas for all available treatments. She said: "The daughters want me to do that." Mrs Jeffrey, originally from the working-class Shankill Road, accepted that her win meant she may have to leave her modest home. But she said: "I really don't want to. I don't want to leave my friends and neighbours." Mrs Jeffrey is planning a new car for her husband Robert - either a Renault Clio or a Volkswagen Golf. Her own treat will be replacing the washing machine. "That's all I want," she insisted.