Hilton Dawson: If 23 had been 42 and I'd won the lottery what would I have done?

Journal columnist and former MP Hilton Dawson says we can all win the lottery - even if our numbers don't come up

Rui Vieira/PA Wire National Lottery champagne flutes
National Lottery champagne flutes

That time I won the National Lottery the prizewinner collected £6.5m.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t me. On that ‘rollover Saturday’ I had only five out of the requisite six numbers so my, rather our, winnings were about 3,000 times less. Still, it was a nice amount to have, and Sue and I often recall the breathless anticipation as five of our gloriously familiar, numbers appeared.

I confess that we also sometimes reflect on ‘what might have been’, if number ‘23’ had actually turned out to be ‘42’. I still put the same numbers on every Saturday because there’s just as much chance for my particular combination as any other. After all, I’d rue the day if, having abandoned them, all those six numbers should for once, come up.

On reflection though, I don’t think I really want to win the National Lottery. For one, because like many others, I’ve actually got the material stuff that people reasonably need.

Of course my next impulse would be to give a fortune to our family, but while they might at first welcome it, would it really be right for me to intervene so dramatically in their lives? What’s actually wrong with going to work, paying the mortgage, the children attending the same school as all their neighbours, being ordinary, decent, normal?

Of course it would be different if there was some major problem, but there’s enormous satisfaction in seeing your children facing all life’s daily issues, your grandchildren growing up properly, without needing a big bag of money to buy them more than everyone else.

If I had the guts I’d give every penny away to those who really need it. If only I had the opportunity and the willpower to re-direct that huge cheque to traumatised, hungry bairns living in refugee camps. Or to the wonderful staff of Medecins Sans Frontieres tending to people in the world’s worst places; handing it over without fuss, that would be the thing. However, if I allowed all that money to ‘rest ‘in my own account for a while I think it would start to eat away at my extremely imperfect soul. There’d be all those moral dilemmas; should I just keep a little back? ‘Isn’t he a thoroughly nice man enjoying all that publicity?’

I don’t think a big Lottery win would actually do me much good.

Of course I might start a business, involve other people, serve the community, develop a bright idea, employ someone and then create new opportunities.

But that is what the Lottery already does.

Early last year the tiny community project that I chair took our big idea to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The thought of creating a community family tree was a simple development of common understanding that so many people from a fishing village are inter-related. The difference is that since the arrival of the National Lottery small communities can enjoy some big funding of their own.

At first we were daunted; the process seems complex, hedged with terms and conditions. It’s competitive too, so you might do all that work for nothing.

On the other hand the people at the Heritage Lottery Fund are friendly and helpful when approached. Taking their advice, seeking support from other organisations we were reminded that our area is rich in the warmth and knowledge of its people. We do have a good project but we were so encouraged that so many people – business, councils, voluntary bodies, councillors, the vicar, the media were so keen to help.

We put in a bid and were granted £44,000 – which is a great deal more than I won with five numbers.

The Newbiggin Genealogy Project has just had its mid term report approved and it’s demonstrating considerable success.

The volunteers have painstakingly inputted information about 25,000 people into a free, publicly accessible, online database that may be the first of its kind in the world. There have been well-attended ‘community workshops’ every month at the splendid Newbiggin Maritime Centre, information about family history is collected from people in their own homes, in the library, in the pub. The project became publishers to make the stories of Newbiggin known, to keep them forever in the five greatest libraries of the British Isles and to establish the ownership of their own history by Newbiggin people.

Wonderful stories of bravery and fortitude have been recovered, dialect recorded, the wit and humour of Newbiggin’s ‘by names’ - ‘Quay Waal Jimmy’, ‘Bella flat hat’ is being preserved. Someone has been employed, some have found new purpose. They have produced displays and worked well with excellent staff from Northumberland Archives.

Project money has been spent in the community and now it is inspiring a new music initiative, new investment, to further raise Newbiggin’s self confidence and its profile in the world.

All this is the achievement of Newbiggin people, they now own a wonderful resource. However any North East community can do the same thing, in their own distinctive way.

We can all win the Lottery, even if our numbers don’t come up on a Saturday night.

www.northumbriapeople.org.uk

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