A dramatic last-minute dash across Lough Foyle has brought €250,000 in Lotto winnings to the staff of Craigtown National School in Carndonagh.
But the fantastic win almost didn’t happen!
“Ordinarily I would play it in Carn,” said teacher Margaret Farren, the Lotto syndicate organiser. “And I would get an eight-draw ticket to cover the next eight draws in a row.”
“However that particular Saturday I was holidaying on the north Antrim coast and I suddenly realised that we weren’t in the draw for that night.”
“After that, there was a bit of a mad dash back across the border. I ended up getting the Magilligan ferry over to Greencastle to shave off a bit of time and I went down to the Centra in Moville.”
“The Centra in Moville was unable to give me my usual ticket for eight draws in-a-row. For some reason their machine wasn’t able to do it.”
“They tried a few different things but then I said I would take just one ticket instead. I thought I’d just take five lines for that night’s draw and at least then we would be in.”
She headed for SuperValu in Carn the next day to buy the remainder of the tickets for the month ahead.
“I went in to do the next draws on the Sunday, and while I was in I thought I may as well check this one ticket from the night before.”
“The two girls behind the counter in SuperValu then started to get mad excited. They said I had to ring Dublin to see what we had won.”
Margaret was keeping her feet firmly on the ground at this stage however.
“I wasn’t excited at all because I had known people who previously rang Dublin and ended up getting maybe a grand – and a grand eighteen ways wasn’t going to go too far.”
“When I got home my friend started checking online. Eventually he said I think you’ve one the €250,000 jackpot.”
But still Margaret wasn’t convinced.
“I kept schtum until I phoned Dublin myself on the Monday morning. I was convinced it was a mistake and I didn’t tell anyone.”
The win was eventually confirmed by Lotto HQ and Margaret says “that was the only point in which I actually believed it”.
Margaret then had the happy task of informing the other lucky members, including Craigtown headmaster Gerard O’Kane, that they had won.
“For most of the day only one other member of staff and Gerard knew.”
“We told the rest of them after school on Monday evening. Looking at everyone’s face all day and knowing they had this nice surprise coming was a lovely feeling,” Margaret says.
Members of the successful Craigtown group, including teachers, SNAs and some auxiliary school staff, paid €10 every month into the Lotto draw.
Eighteen syndicate members at the Carn school will each get an equal share of €13,889 following the Lotto Plus 2 jackpot win.
However, the syndicate hasn’t yet collected its winnings.
“It takes a long time to organise 18 IDs, 18 signatures and 18 bank accounts. It’s all very legalistic,” Margaret explains.
“We’ll either go down en-masse on the first day of the holidays or we’ll send a select few down to collect it. The jury’s still out on that one.”
Margaret may be one of Inishowen’s most successful lotto syndicate managers, but she concedes that she’s not entirely sure how Lotto Plus 2 actually works!
“All I know is, when they ask if we do Lotto Plus, I just say yes.”