Young Lottery Winner Stuart Donnelly
Winning the lottery when you’re a teenager would seem like a dream come true, but unfortunately this doesn’t ring true for many of the young winners the world sees. Some become obsessed with the perks, to the point that they go broke spending too much money on luxuries, while others choose to maintain a low profile—sometimes to the point of becoming a recluse, like young lottery winner Stuart Donnelly.
Donnelly’s Nearly £2 Million Win & How He Spent It
At the fresh age of 17, young lottery winner Stuart Donnelly—then a pharmacist in training—stumbled into a fair bit of luck when he became one of the 13 people to win part of Britain’s £25 million National Lottery jackpot in November 1997. This made him one of the youngest lottery winners in the world.
Stuart didn’t react selfishly when he took home nearly £2 million in winnings; in fact, one of his first transactions was giving £15,000 to the same hospital where his brother was being treated for a genetic blood disorder. Likewise, he shared his winnings with his family, giving money to his aunts and uncles as well as purchasing £600,000 worth of new homes for his divorced parents.
He also invested in properties in Thailand to allow himself and his family the opportunity to travel luxuriously—a welcomed change in their dynamic. For himself, his most notable purchase was his £2,000 executive seat at Celtic Park, which would allow him to enjoy watching his favourite football team’s home games.
The Pressures and Dark Side of Winning
Unfortunately, Stuart’s win didn’t affect his life as positively as one would expect. In 2003, he revealed in an interview that his life—as well as his family’s lives—had been adversely affected by his lottery win. This largely had to do with the pressure it put on them as well as the constant attention the family the received. He wasn’t well-known before his name became publicised, but after taking home more than £1.9 million, he and his family were subjected to plenty of stress—including people camping outside of their homes.
To add to it, Stuart was taking care of his ill father in the home he’d purchased for them to share. His father died from a heart attack a mere two years after Stuart’s win. The combined stress led the winner to become somewhat of a hermit, to the point that he publicly indicated on former social networking site Bebo that his favourite pastimes were “…sleeping, watching TV, listening to music, surfing the net. Basically, anything that involves not leaving the house.” Considering the incredible opportunities that his wealth could’ve provided him, these are pretty sad pastimes indeed.
Dead at 29
Stuart Donnelly was found dead in his cottage in Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, at the young age of 29 on January 6th, 2010. Scotland police indicated that no foul play was involved in Stuart’s death. His family indicated that Stuart spent his last holiday season with them before returning to his home, where he would later die from natural causes. It was suspected that Stuart suffered from health issues before his untimely death, and drug and alcohol use may have played a role in his death. The fact that he was about to wed a Thai woman he had fallen for on one of his trips to Thailand makes his story that much more tragic.
Stuart’s Bebo page soon became filled with words of love and sorrow in memoriam. Like Canadian lottery winner Graham Gelineau, Stuart distanced himself from much of the world—even friends and family—after his win, but it was evident that he was remembered by all and loved by many. His aunt left a comment noting his close relationship with his family despite the distance, indicating “…Stuart was loved by all his family.” In death, the same was true about Stuart as it was when he won the lottery: he had a loving family whom he loved greatly in return.
For many lottery winners, winning millions of dollars is a guaranteed way to improve one’s quality of life. Unfortunately, in an era where it is nearly impossible to escape the subsequent publicity, several winners struggle with their newfound “fame”—some to the point of disappearing from the public eye.
For Stuart Donnelly, the problem was clear: winning the lottery at 17 was hard enough, but combined with unwanted attention and other difficulties in his personal life, the young winner wanted nothing more than to be left alone. Sadly, this eventually led to his tragic death. Stuart's story goes to show that winning the lottery can come with its own handful of unexpected problems.