One of the UK's first lottery millionaires reveals how she's lived off her $3.5 million win

Jan 8, 2020, 8:07 am (6 comments)

UK National Lottery

UK National Lottery celebrates 25 years

Includes video report

Next week will mark a quarter of a century since the first National Lottery draw and to mark it, we have tracked down one of the first batch of millionaires it created.

The first draw was broadcast live on the BBC on 19 November 1994, with it hosted by TV favourites Noel Edmonds and Anthea Turner.

The first number drawn? 30. Followed by 3, 5, 44, 14 and 22 — long before the relatively recent addition of numbers 50 to 59. 

The bonus ball was 10, it cost £1 per line and the draw was watched by 22 million people — roughly 40 per cent of the population at the time — as Britain went lotto-mad.

It has expanded rapidly since with a £71 billion in prize money being handed out to UK prize winners — 5,500 millionaires and multi-millionaires have been made.

One of the first people to win the lottery was Elaine Thompson from Newcastle, who scooped the jackpot in her late 30s. 

On Sat., Dec. 9, 1995, she and her husband, Derek, won £2.7 million (US$3.5 million) — making them the 53rd winners of the National Lottery. 

She said, "I was sitting with my children watching the television and when the lottery numbers came up, I recognized the numbers and said we've won a tenner but after properly checking my ticket, I realized we had won millions."

However, after finding out about the win, Elaine, now 63, said no one would actually stay on the phone long enough to hear her exciting news.

"I rang my mother-in-law who screamed and then hung up. I then rang a friend who runs a pub and she said she was busy and put the phone down. I ended up going to my neighbors."

While many would buy a new home or car, the first thing Elaine did with her winnings was go to Marks and Spencer and buy a cotton jumper in every color — before throwing the receipt away so she couldn't return them.

Although winning is undoubtedly overwhelming, Elaine said the Camelot team helped her all the way, giving her much needed financial advice.

'There is a press conference in London but before that we went to the Camelot office, where they sit you down and verify your ticket and how much you've won.

"They brought in a banker who gave us the check. He asked us if we wanted any money now as he had brought £20,000 in cash but I said no as there was no way I was walking around London with that much money.

"After that, Camelot then invited us and financial advisers including will writing people to their offices where you can voice all your financial concerns, get advice from the experts and then employ them if you want them to."

Generous Elaine gave a million pounds to her brother after winning and admits that while she didn't invest the money and give herself an annual allowance, her husband is an accountant so looking after money carefully wasn't too much of an issue. 

Now Elaine and Derek give advice to lottery winners and the first thing they say to new millionaires is "take a vacation".

Elaine frequently visits new winners for a few days, including someone who recently won more than £100 million — although, she doesn't offer financial advice, but lifestyle advice. 

"I tell them don't make rash decisions, the decisions you make on the day won't be the ones you want to make in three months," Elaine said.

The couple still play the lottery every week after their win 24 years ago out of habit and are still happily living off their winnings. 

25 fun facts about the lottery

To celebrate the 25th anniversary, This is Money has delved through the archives to reveal 25 facts about the National Lottery — including where you're most likely to live to scoop the jackpot: 

1. The National Lottery has (almost) made 100 millionaires in one night, twice. On the opening night of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 27 July 2012, 100 millionaires were created with 97 claiming their prize.

A year later, on 26 July, 2013, a further 100 were made with 91 claiming their prize.

2. The split between winning a big prize by picking your numbers, or by choosing a Lucky Dip is around 50/50 so don't worry if you are thinking of changing your usual lottery pattern.

3. Taking into account everything a winner has done with their money, including spending, saving and gifting, only 82 per cent of winners reveal that they are now as — or more — well off than the day they first received their winnings. 

This means one fifth of winners actually have LESS money than before they won. This is likely to include Michael Carroll, famously known as the 'Lotto Lout' or 'King of Chavs' who splashed all £10 million of his winnings in just a couple of years, meaning he then had to sign on to claim benefits again. 

He now reportedly works as a lumberjack earning £10 an hour. 

4. The biggest ever lottery win was the EuroMillions capped jackpot in October 2019 which saw a lucky winner take home £170 million.

5. One man has won a jackpot twice in the same draw. Derek Ladner bought two tickets for the same draw, meaning he won on both in 2007. However, he almost missed out on hundreds of thousands of pounds after initially forgetting about the second ticket. 

6. Although 74 per cent of millionaires move, they do not always go that far. Of those who get the removal man in, 65 per cent stay in the same village or town or within five miles and a further 13 percent only move up to 10 miles away.

7. Birmingham is the place to live if you want to scoop the jackpot as 168 millionaires have been made since launching. In second place is Belfast with 133 wins followed by Glasgow with 125.

8. If you are looking for where you are most likely to win a prize of over £50,000, however, the map of National Lottery luck alters. Some 40,000 prizes of £50,000 or more have been won by players and taking where these major prizes have been won, and dividing by the local population, results in luck living north of the border.

The unique stats based on big wins per head of adult population places Galashiels first with one in every 894 adults banking a big prize. Traditional lucky lottery locations Romford and Cleveland complete the top three.

9. Roughly 75 per cent of players still buy their tickets in store while only 25 per cent play online — maybe somewhat of a surprise in the digital age. 

10. The most drawn ball, as a main and bonus ball, since 1994 is lucky 38. [Editor: The most-often drawn number within the main six numbers is 40.]

11. Cars are the first thing winners buy after getting their prize with 29 per cent of millionaires immediately going for a new set of wheels. 

12. The average winner buys 4.5 cars, for themselves or for immediate family, while 16 per cent have bought 7 to 10 plus cars, with one winner admitting to purchasing more than 20. 

13. The occupation with the most wins are drivers who have accelerated into the millionaire fast lane with more million pound prizes than any other profession. Builders came in second while managers are third.

14. Players only have 180 days from the day of the draw to claim their prize. This meant that in 2015, a claim of £4.6 million in Barking and Dagenham almost went unclaimed when the winner claimed it with just three days to spare.

15. The largest prize ever to go unclaimed was from the EuroMillions draw on June 8, 2012. A ticket that won a huge £63,837,543.60 had been bought by a player in the Stevenage and Hitchin area but never claimed it. 

16. The thing that most lottery winners have on their bucket list is to take a trip with their family to Disney World. 

17. One of the most unusual ways of a player selecting their numbers was using a chicken called Kiev who successfully picked a winning line by using its beak to 'peck' lucky numbers on his owner's calculator. 

Kiev was renamed Lucky after his owner match five balls plus the bonus using these tactics. Sadly Kiev met a grisly end when he met the local fox one night not long after.

18. The most popular place to hide a winning ticket is a bag, wallet or purse with 14 percent of winners doing this.

19. Currently, seven millionaires are made in an average week across all National Lottery games.

20. Some of the most unusual purchases include a pair of hips for a winner's wife, a gothic folly for the garden, a signed Sgt. Pepper album, a robotic lawn mower, three  wooden bears for the garden (one is three foot tall), a firework company, a five foot high Shaun the Sheep and a football club. 

One even had a narrow boat built personally for them. 

21. Arguably the most British thing a winner has bought is the home next door — which they subsequently turned into a pub.

22. Wherever you hide your ticket don't worry about a few creases in it and certainly don't iron it. 

One player thought a quick once over would make his ticket more presentable, but the tickets are made from heat sensitive paper meaning it went completely black. 

Luckily, the National Lottery still had all the ticket details from his telephone call and so could still pay his prize.

23. Jackpot winners take on average 4.4 holidays a year, with 29 percent taking five or more. 

On top of this, 80 percent of winners own a vacation home and the US is the favorite vacation destination, with 37 percent visiting shortly after a win.

24. Man's best friend seems to be the perfect companion for the millionaire lifestyle. Some 27 percent of winners buy a dog after their win, six percent a horse but only two percent get a cat.

25. The balls weigh 11.8g for Lotto and Thunderball (11 sets of each) and 12g for Set For Life (9 sets) and are re-weighed and measured every six months and then recertified annually. 

They are made by Smartplay who are based in New Jersey — each set costs £2,500.

VIDEO: Watch the first-ever UK National Lottery drawing on Nov. 19, 1994

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

Thanks to dannyct for the tip.

This is Money, Lottery Post Staff



An interesting British TV series related to the lottery I am currently watching is called "At Home With The Braithwaites". I won't say much more, but it is a lot better show than I expected. I would recommend it!

music*'s avatarmusic*

Thank You for the lottery stories from the U.K. 

 Each winner is different in how they spend their winnings. Same as here in the US.

  Good Luck to all!!


The UK Lottery allows winners to remain anonymous, which the vast majority do. The British Lottery also offers winners independent financial advice. All US lotteries should offer both to their winners.

hearsetrax's avatarhearsetrax

great story and I wish the happy couple another big win jejeje


Great story!    #19 was really the eye catcher IMHO...up to 7 millionaires/week!

db101's avatardb101

Congrats to all the winners! I love those old school tumblers with the three paddles. Anybody know what the lottery does with obsolete equipment? Like their ping pong balls and tumblers. It'd be rad to buy some of their discards when they are getting new equipment.

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