How Barbara gave away a fortune - and end up the richer

The National Lottery logo: winner Barbara Wragg showed how you can spread good fortune to others.

The National Lottery logo: winner Barbara Wragg showed how you can spread good fortune to others. - Credit: Archant

Lotto winner Barbara Wragg showed what true riches are all about, says Rachel Moore.

Millions play the National Lottery every week dreaming what to do with the fortune if it ever came their way.

Mansions, gin-palace yachts, Caribbean holidays, fast cars and a lifetime free of money worries. An endless shopping list; an answer to every prayer.

Though, there are enough stories of miserable rich people who quickly realised millions in the bank didn't bring long-term happiness and a perma-spring in their step, it puts no one off. All the money in the world might never fill a gap when something else is missing in life, but it goes a long way to sorting the otherwise unsortable, most of us think.

A plumped-up cushion of cash makes everything else bearable, we believe.

Barbara Wragg's shopping list was simple when she won her £7.6 million 18 years ago – a house with her 'dream' bay windows in a more upmarket part of Sheffield, enough to set up her three children and six grandchildren for life, holidays and her idea of heaven, a caravan.

Then she did what made her happy with the rest; she gave it all away– more than £5.5 million of her winnings. For nearly two decades, she shared her good fortune by doing good, helping causes and making great things happen for other people.

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She picked her causes wisely.

Her win was never about greed, accumulation or excess; it was about kindness and generosity.

Hundreds benefited from her windfall. Her money became a magic wand for others, making dreams come true and putting smiles on faces.

It was extraordinary that she chose to keep 'only' a little over £2 million for herself and her family, but she had never wanted to do anything else – and would have done it again, playing the lottery every week until her death last week.

Within an hour of winning the National Lottery jackpot in 2000, Barbara, then a hospital worker had told her husband, Ray, that she wanted to sprinkle her winnings on those in need.

And she never stopped investigating where that win could do good, so much that she was known in Sheffield as the Lotto Angel.

Her luck wasn't in the winning, her husband said, she felt she was lucky to be able to help other people and change lives, from a children's cancer unit at her local hospital, a bladder scanner in the hospital she had worked because it only had one, to paying for underprivileged children to enjoy annual pantomimes, her pleasure was in the giving.

I wasn't surprised this was a Sheffield story. It's a city of big hearts, and kind heads always open to help. I lived there for three years in the 1980s and never, anywhere in the city, did I experience anything other than warmth and welcome. People helping others and seeing themselves as part of a community is what is important to so many.

Barbara's story made me think twice about the National Lottery. Still, all these years on, I've yet to buy a ticket. There's something about lusting after multi-millions that has always made me feel uncomfortable, a bit distasteful.

The queues of people every week all hoping to become overnight multi-millionaires by a stroke of luck makes me feel a bit sad. Avarice is not an attractive quality.

But reading about Barbara, who died last week, made me think again and see the whole winning thing differently. It doesn't have to be about greed and self. If every winner was as generous and big-hearted as Barbara, putting community and others before self, how much good the Lottery could spread.

Individuals down on their luck were helped by Barbara's fortune on top of established causes and charities.

She stepped in with a cheque to fund 60 veterans to attend a reunion of the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy giving her huge pleasure. The men were heroes, she said, and if they couldn't afford to go, she would make it happen.

Hundreds are expected at Barbara's funeral. Her best legacy would be to encourage such kindness and generosity in others to get pleasure from giving rather than taking.