The saying that "It couldn't happen to nicer people" could not have rang truer when earlier today well known Newry couple Colin and Eithne Bell took receipt of a cheque for a cool One Million Pounds at a National Lottery function in the Canal Court Hotel in Newry.

Eithne and Colin Bell at the press reception to announce their lottery win. Photograph: New Ray Pics
Eithne and Colin Bell at the press reception to announce their lottery win. Photograph: New Ray Pics

In what must have been one of the most heartwarming occasions ever witnessed in Newry the pair were presented with their cheque and the obligatory champagne was produced.

The pair are known worldwide for founding the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust in 2013, after their son Kevin tragically lost his life in America on 16 June that year.

The organisation provides financial and logistical support for families who have lost loved ones overseas and helps bring back their remains. Since then the charity has repatriated 330 people from all parts of the world to every county in Ireland.

The two charity workers now have become the north's latest Lottery Winners scooping £1,000,000 in the EuroMillions UK Millionaire Maker on Tuesday 10th June.

Colin and Eithne Bell with their cheque for a cool One Million Pounds. Photograph: NewRayPics
Colin and Eithne Bell with their cheque for a cool One Million Pounds. Photograph: NewRayPics

Former teacher Colin and Eithne, a retired nursery school worker, were settling in for a quiet night in front of the telly when their evening took an unexpected but remarkable twist. 

“I was watching the early evening news with Eithne when the EuroMillions numbers flashed up on screen,” said Colin.  “I remembered that I’d bought a ticket for the draw but that I hadn’t checked my numbers so I took out my wallet, went online and was disappointed to see that I hadn’t matched any numbers. 

“However, when I checked the unique Millionaire Maker code I was totally floored to see that it matched my code!” he added.

In disbelief, Colin turned to his wife to tell her that they had just become millionaires!

He continued, “I told Eithne that I thought we had just won £1M and she laughed, thinking that I was joking. But when I repeated it and she saw the look on my face, she soon realised that I was being serious.

“Once the shock passed, we decided to go to my daughter’s house, Ciara (32), who lives a couple of miles away, to get her to check again as we just simply couldn’t believe we’d won.”

When Colin and Eithne explained to their daughter why they were there she was overjoyed.

“After checking the code and seeing that it matched Ciara started dancing around the room and whooping.  We hadn’t realised until that point just how numb we both were but the news finally started to sink in.  Ciara told us to contact Camelot and after speaking to them we began to feel that it was actually really happening.”

Colin and Eithne have six children so they decided to contact them all to tell them the amazing news.

Colin said, “We told our son Brendan (31) when he arrived home from work and then we gave Eamon (29), who lives in Australia, a call and they were both totally astounded.  Then we contacted our two sons who live in Dublin, Sean (32) and Conor (28).  All of their reactions were just brilliant.  Conor even said, ‘How do you expect me to go back to work after hearing this news!’ - so it was smiles all round.”

As this was all unfolding, Colin and Eithne’s daughter Maeve (26), who didn’t know about the life-changing news, was making her way back to Northern Ireland from a two year stay in Australia. 

Eithne and Collin celebrate their win. Photograph: NewRayPics
Eithne and Collin celebrate their win. Photograph: NewRayPics

“My wife and I, together with my three year old grandson, Daniel, picked up Maeve from Dublin Airport the next day.  We said nothing of our news until we had her safely in the car but when she heard we had to pull over as she was in total shock and needed some air.  Her reaction was priceless.  In fact we’ll never forget how each of our kids reacted – we just never expected any of this to happen!” said Colin.

The National Lottery has been changing the lives of winners like Colin and Eithne as well as communities across the UK for more than 21 years with players raising, on average, over £30 million for National Lottery-funded projects every week.

In Northern Ireland alone there have been well over 20,000 individual National Lottery grants awarded to individuals, organisations and projects across the arts, sports, heritage, health, education, environment, charity and voluntary sectors. 

When asked what they plan to spend the money on Colin commented “My wife would love a sun room extension on the house and a new car and I plan to buy a couple of 10 year Premium Level Tickets for Croke Park,” and he concluded “But we’ll spend most of it changing the lives of our children – that will bring us so much joy!”

More information on the Trust can be found at www.kevinbellrepatriationtrust.com.