On the Scottish island of North Uist, which is almost as close to Iceland as it is to London, no one really likes a change. With its deserted and golden beaches, non-existent crime and friendly manners, the locals love life as it is.
âIt’s like the Bahamas here,â says fisherman Donald MacDonald. “But without the heat.”
So what happened when 101 islanders, who felt they had everything they needed, won a share of a Â£ 3million jackpot in the Postcode Lottery in January of last year?
A new Channel 4 documentary aims to show how the manna has affected their lives and, in the end, features a life-affirming tonic by presenting people who prioritize family, friends and practical things over ‘to money.
It shows exactly why it, and not hard cash, makes North Uist Britain’s richest postcode.
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Duncan Campbell, an 83-year-old peat cutter who likes to fend for himself and repair, won Â£ 21,000 and treated himself to a new plastic wheelbarrow.
What will he do with his rickety old wheelbarrow, which is rutted, patched up, rusty and has wobbly handles and a crooked wheel? âI think I’ll try to sell it.
Duncan went to the hardware store and in a madness of Â£ 149 bought the wheelbarrow, a pedal bin and a nonstick frying pan because his old one had a bump in the middle.
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Weeks later, with the help of a web-savvy friend, he ordered a Â£ 350 recliner “that swivels, tilts, is good for a nap and has two cup holders.”
Every evening, after a hard day of grafting manually cutting peat moss and cycling back home, he lies down in his chair in front of his fireplace.
On the fireplace, hidden behind the clock, is the presentation copy of his lottery check.
The winnings were not shared equally among the 1,500 residents, as only those who paid to play the zip code lottery were lucky.
Most have pocketed Â£ 21,000, which is more than the annual salary of most islanders. Others, who matched the exact winning postal code, got many more.
Pamela Macaskill, 44, juggled three jobs at a post office, holiday home and art gallery when she won Â£ 193,055 and became the island’s biggest winner.
She and her husband Angus, a mason and crofter, plan to give themselves and their two teenage daughters a vacation, but where? âInverness,â Angus says.
The couple, both born and raised in North Uist, are grappling with the happy dilemma of how to reduce their surprise fortunes.
âWe are not materialists,â says Pamela. “If you’ve never had a lot of money, there’s a huge reluctance on my part to spend it.”
They know for sure how not to spend it. It is out of the question to move to a chic place on the continent.
âI only have good memories growing up here,â says Pamela. âNo crime. Freedom.
âEveryone knows everyone and if something really good or really bad happens people will celebrate with you or come back for you. Honestly, it’s phenomenal.
Finally, they splash around on an inflatable paddling pool and Pamela’s first cell phone.
âI don’t use it to make calls. To be fair, there isn’t much of a signal here. Just give me a landline any day.
After five months and a lot of procrastination, they buy the only flash purchase in the rural idyll: a BMW.
âWe just thought, ‘Pamper yourself, let’s buy a new car’. That’s what we did, âsays Pamela.
âIt’s all button and touch screens and stuff. But I’ll be honest – it’s absolutely no different than driving my old Vauxhall.
“If I can sit in it and turn a key in it and it goes, then it’s fabulous.”
Lobster fisherman Donald MacDonald spent 37 years battling the rugged seas of the Northwest, but the preparation for last January’s victory was particularly difficult.
He says, âI was blown away by the weather – I had never seen it so bad. Storm after storm and when it affects your livelihood, it’s even worse.
âEveryone says fishermen are so rich. I would love to exchange my bank balance with anyone,â he says, âAlthough maybe not now, it has been increased.â
Donald, whose loyal Jack Russell Poppy only responds to Gaelic commands, knew exactly how he would spend some of his Â£ 64,000 on a Â£ 5,000 dinghy.
âOn the islands there are more practical things to do with money rather than spending it on cars or on vacation. You spend it on something you need.
Fish and farmer Attar Johnson gave most of his Â£ 42,850 to his 24-year-old daughter Eilidh, who is a teacher in Glasgow.
The Â£ 30,000 gift is to help him climb the property ladder, although he doesn’t really want Eilidh to take root in the city.
Attar says: âAs she got older she wanted the bright lights of Glasgow.
âShe is the first in the Johnson family to graduate and we are very proud of her. But there aren’t many jobs on the island for graduates.
âA lot of them want to see city life, but fill up and want to come home. We live in the hope that Eilidh wants to do the same.â
Retired teacher Annie MacDonald, who won Â£ 21,000, buys what she has wanted for 14 years: a new cattle grid to prevent stray sheep from eating the plants in her garden.
It took all of her powers of persuasion to convince her husband Alastair to fork out to replace the old folded.
âIt hadn’t actually collapsed, so Alastair didn’t think it was worth buying a new one,â says Annie.
“But it was really, really dangerous and a lot of people were reluctant to approach it, including me.”
24-year-old Peter Johnson turned the tide and went a little crazy on Amazon with his Â£ 21,000 win.
âI bought a tabletop dishwasher because I don’t like to do the dishes. And an electric heater.
âThen I bought a bread maker because I hope I can make some really good sandwiches. And I love toast.
- The Scottish island that won the lottery, Canal 4, Saturday at 8 p.m.