Lotto winner who has given away half of £115m winnings says helping is addictive

Frances Connolly won the EuroMillions and, after helping family and friends, she has thrown herself into charity work.

Tom Wilkinson
Tuesday 26 April 2022 20:00
A lottery winner who has given away more than half of her £115 million fortune said she is addicted to giving to others (PA)
A lottery winner who has given away more than half of her £115 million fortune said she is addicted to giving to others (PA)

A lottery winner who has given away more than half of her £115 million fortune said she is addicted to giving to others.

Frances Connolly revealed she has already busted the charity budget she agreed for this year with husband Paddy – and has given away what they would have donated up to 2032.

The 55-year-old former social worker and teacher has set up two charitable foundations, one named after her late mother Kathleen Graham in their native Northern Ireland, and the PFC Trust in Hartlepool, where the couple have lived for 30 years.

On Saturday, a gala fundraiser, which she organised with 250 guests, made more than £100,000 for the PFC Trust, which supports local young carers, the elderly and refugees.

Frances and Patrick Connolly scooped the EuroMillions jackpot in 2019 (PA)

The Connollys won on the EuroMillions in 2019 and immediately gave away large chunks of cash to friends and family, using a list she prepared in advance of the win – which she always believed would happen.

She estimates she has given away £60m, including to charity, but does not keep a tally, joking she would be worried in case her 57-year-old husband saw it.

She said helping others, whether with money or by volunteering her time, lifted people’s spirits during lockdown.

She said: “It gives you a buzz and it’s addictive.

“I’m addicted to it now.”

Mrs Connolly has always been motivated to help others, volunteering for the St John Ambulance from age nine and setting up an Aids helpline when she was a student in Belfast.

If you're stupid before you get it, you're going to be stupid afterwards. Money's not going to make you sensible. Money liberates you to be the person that you want to be

Mrs Connolly

The couple, who have three daughters – Catrina, 34, and twins Fiona and Natalie, 26 – are not extravagant with their wealth and Mrs Connolly has no desire to buy a yacht.

Their biggest expenditure after their win was a six-bedroom house in County Durham with seven acres of land, while Mr Connolly drives a second-hand Aston Martin, but Mrs Connolly scoffed at the idea of spending £13,000 on a console table.

When she saw a TV show where someone in Monaco spent £25,000 on a bottle of champagne, she immediately thought that could have put a young person on the property ladder.

Mr Connolly still runs plastic businesses, while Mrs Connolly devotes her time to the trusts, which have backed local community groups to help people get into work, buy electronic tablets for old people so they can connect with their families, and supported refugees.

Young carers are particularly close to her heart, and the trust and personal donations have bought two caravans so they can go on respite breaks.

Mrs Connolly conceded she cannot “cure poverty” on her own, so she set up the trusts to get the backing of other people, supported by the groups she is setting out to help.

Asked why she was happy to give so much away, she said: “Oh, who needs all that money?

“Why wouldn’t you?

“I’ve done that all my life.

“I’m not being funny, I’d have been a millionaire anyway if I took back all the money I’ve given away over the years.

People do ask, ‘How did you cope with that amount of money?’ I said, ‘I never did. It wasn’t in the bank two days’.

She added: “It’s still weird, but I’ve never actually had to come to terms with all that money because we had it for such a short amount of time.”

Mrs Connolly agreed to stop giving away large amounts but has already donated 2022’s agreed budget – and for a decade beyond.

She said: “This was just in January… we do a budget every year, we check what we’re spending.

“We’re (already) on 2032’s budget.

“We might have to revise that.”

Winning such a huge sum has obviously changed the pair’s lives, but Mrs Connolly said it does not alter your personality.

She said: “If you’re stupid before you get it, you’re going to be stupid afterwards.

“Money’s not going to make you sensible.

“Money liberates you to be the person that you want to be.

“If I had any advice for a winner, that’s what I’d say.

“Think about what type of person you are and what type of person you want to be.”

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