Patrick and Frances Connolly: Former Hartlepool couple become the talk of the town

Lottery excitement swept a village in Northern Ireland yesterday as news emerged the EuroMillions jackpot winners were among them.

Saturday, 5th January 2019, 10:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 1:46 pm
Frances and Patrick Connolly. Picture by PA.

Pictures show delighted Jayden-Jay Jones, 8, the captain of the under-9s team at Hartlepool St Francis Football Club at the playing fields on Rossmere Way, in Hartlepool.

Jayden-Jay Jones, 8, the captain of the under-9s team at Hartlepool. Picture by PA.

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Former club volunteer Frances Connolly has said she will be making a donation to the club.

Chairman Peter Rooney said he had not believed the news when he was first told: “I don’t know what to think of it, I am absolutely stunned."

Ahead of the announcement yesterday, there was much speculation in the tight-knit community of Moira, in County Down, over who had scooped the incredible £115 million prize.

Very few knew Patrick and Frances Connolly, however, as they have only recently moved to the upmarket village.

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The couple returned to Northern Ireland in recent years after 25 years in the north-east of England.

From the luxurious surroundings of the Culloden Hotel on the outskirts of Belfast, they toasted their win with champagne.

It was a little different to the rented house in a neat modern development in Moira where the couple have been living.

The development includes grand detached homes as well as the more modest type of house the Connollys call home at this stage.

Of their neighbours, few knew them other than friendly faces to say 'hello' to.

The new multi-millionaires were the talk of businesses along the street, from the supermarket where Frances occasionally bought lottery tickets - although the big winning ticket was purchased online - to charity shops, pubs, estate agents and butchers.

At McCartney's of Moira, a prominent butcher, deli and cafe complex, Patrick was the face some of the staff recognised.

Cafe assistant Bernie Baine said she remembered serving him.

"I recognised him when I saw the photograph of the winners," she said.

"As soon as I saw him, I knew the face.

"I remember serving him coffee and maybe some of our tray bakes, you serve a lot of people in here but once you see a face, you don't forget it.

"When I heard the winner was from Moira, I was hoping it was a customer I had served who really liked my service and would come back and give me a tip.

"If he comes back, I'll be serving him on a gold platter."

Deli worker David Campbell said the fact the winners were in Moira had been the talk of the shop all day.

"Customers coming in today, that's all they are talking about," he laughed.

"They were all saying they hope they find out they are related to them, some sort of far out relations.

"There has been a real buzz about it."

The editor of a magazine that highlights important social issues has now said he is delighted to have received the verbal backing of Northern Ireland's newest lottery millionaires.

Frances Connolly singled out View, which raises awareness of issues such as domestic abuse and suicide.

She has previously done voluntary work for the publication.

Its editor, Brian Pelan, said: "I think Frances should take time out to enjoy and have a good think about what she does.

"I am expecting nothing. Frances and Patrick have won this money and they should do what they want with it, I just wish them well."

Mrs Connolly worked on a voluntary basis with View magazine for a couple of months.

She has said she intends to donate some of the couple's £115 million lottery windfall to charitable causes and singled out the social affairs magazine for mention.

It is a non-profit community media organisation.

Recent issues of the publication have discussed homelessness, shared and integrated education and maternal mental health.

Mr Pelan added: "I am delighted that Frances mentioned us.

"I was just delighted to hear her saying that the magazine was good and she really liked the work we did."