The tantalising prospect that it might be you holding the winning ticket was what galvanised the nation when John Major mooted it, 25 years ago.
In fact, there was only a chance in 45m of taking home the jackpot. But as the National Lottery celebrated its silver anniversary in Yorkshire yesterday, its organisers were able to fill part of a landmark building with people who had defied the odds.
Some 29 winners and their partners were Camelot’s guests at the sprawling, 18th century Piece Hall in Halifax. The venue itself made the winning total up to 30 – its £19m restoration having been funded partly with the stake money of those who didn’t win.
The numbers represented the tip of the iceberg. There are 504 more millionaires in Yorkshire than there were in 1994, as a result of playing the scratchcards and twice-weekly numbers. A further 3,777 people have won in excess of £50,000. Sheffield alone – the fifth luckiest place in the country, according to the official figures – has produced 109 new millionaires.
One of them, Ray Wragg, was among the county’s biggest winners of all, taking home £7.6m in 2000. He and his late wife, Barbara, gave £6m of their fortune to hospitals in Sheffield, amongst other charities. There was, said Mrs Wragg at the time, “too much for two people”.
Mr Wragg spoke yesterday of the unofficial “winners’ club” that had bound those whom fortune had favoured.
“It’s fantastic to have met so many other winners and become close friends with so many of them,” he said.
Fellow club members Sarah and Aldan Ibbetson, from Leeds, who were just 24 when they won £3.1m in 2002, found themselves in the county’s list of highest earners that year, just below the boxer Naseem Hamed but above the supermarket boss, Sir Ken Morrison.
Mr Ibbetson said yesterday that the win had come only after a few hours after buying the winning ticket from a local supermarket. He did not say if it was one of Sir Ken’s.
His wife added: “We’ve stayed grounded because we’ve got three children and run our own business, so we still go into work every day.”
Amanda and Graham Nield, originally from Dewsbury, won more than £6.6m in 2013.
“I was able to give up work and become a full time carer for my Dad, who had Alzheimer’s,” said Mrs Nield. “I’m forever thankful to the lottery because we were able to give my parents a good life right until the end.”
Vicky Mitchell, from Halifax, who won the Set For Life jackpot in August this year, and will receive £10,000 a month for the next 30 years, said her spending had been more modest, extending so far to only two new mattresses.
“We haven’t gone mad with the money. We’re going to start looking for a new house in the new year and maybe treat ourselves to a new car,” she said.
Another recent millionaire, Susan Crossland, from Mirfield, used her father’s numbers on her winning ticket, to mark the third anniversary of his death.
“I’d been to a psychic who told me that my dad was going to leave me a pot of gold,” she said.