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The Religious Affiliation of Famous British Lottery Winner
Viv NicholsonSource: "You Ask the Questions: Questions and Answers with Viv Nicholson," London Independent, October 20, 1999, page 8
Viv Nicholson became the biggest Pools winner in history in 1961, collecting pounds 152,319 - the equivalent of pounds 5m today. She promised the nation she was going to "spend, spend, spend".
A factory worker and mother of four, Viv lived in her home town of Castleford, Yorkshire, at the time. She bought a large bungalow with her second husband, Keith Nicholson, they sent their children to boarding school, and turned to a life of constant drinking, partying and shopping.
Over the next 15 years, her husband died in a car crash, she remarried three times, dyed her hair to match her cars, and travelled the world spending all her money. Eventually, she was reduced to stripping in a club, and consoled herself with alcohol.
Since then, Viv's life has changed dramatically. She has returned to Castleford, lives with her granddaughter, Brooke, and is now a devout Jehovah's Witness. At 62, she lives on a state pension, and has a job as a perfume sales assistant. She still loves to shop. A musical about her life, Spend, Spend, Spend, is at the Piccadilly Theatre in London, starring Barbara Dickson.
Do you buy lottery tickets now? And what's your favourite scratchcard?
No I don't buy lottery tickets or scratchcards. I am a Jehovah's Witness now and have been for 21 years. Gambling is not allowed.
What do you think of those lottery winners who say the money won't change their lives?
You read about them every other week and they say that their lives will not change. Then you read about them later and their lives have changed. It makes some people lonely. One winner went to live in Spain and had to come back because he was drinking too much. Some people's wives leave them. I think it's silly to say that the money won't change your life.
Did people treat you differently when you had lots of money?
This was strange. When we won the money, we were sent to Coventry by the people in Garforth, where we lived. They didn't want me on the same housing estate. No one spoke to us and it was hard for me to speak to anyone. Had someone moved next door I would have made myself known to them and been friendly. It was very lonely. After about four years, people started being OK, but it was too late by then. Even my old friends left me. They said they didn't want people thinking that they were going about with me because I had money. It's sad, because they were lovely people.
Were you worried about having a musical made of your life?
I was. When I gave my consent, I never really thought anything would happen with it. I just left it with Justin and Steve [Justin Greene and Steve Brown, who wrote the lyrics and music for Spend, Spend, Spend]. Then, two years later, they'd done it and announced that they were going to the Leeds Playhouse. I was saying to myself, "Oh no, what have I done?" I was living a quiet life as a Jehovah's Witness and was happy. I was worried that it would rake up my past again.
Do people recognise you when you knock on people's doors as a Jehovah's Witness?
Yes they do. Some look at me and say: "I know who you are." Then they close the door on me. Others are happy to see me. They say: "Hey, you're Viv Nicholson, aren't you?" But I never think of who I am at all when I knock on people's doors. I go as myself, rather than as a famous person.
Are you at all bitter and twisted, or quite happy with your lot?
I'm quite happy with my lot. I'm a happy chappy. I can make any situation happy. You don't have to have money to be happy....
Webpage created 23 July 2005. Last modified 23 July 2005.
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