The Vivian Nicholson Story 1936 – 2015

Despite more than five decades passed, Viv Nicholson winning the pools and her immortal catchphrase, “I’m going to Spend, Spend Spend!” is locked into everyone’s cultural memories.

But while most know of her fortune won and lost, few recall that she was tragically widowed at the age of 27, married five times, and gained and lost another sizeable sum of money, all before she hit 45.

And the remainder of her life was no less dramatic. Viv’s tale became a BBC play for today and a musical (resulting in another fortune won and lost), she suffered a difficult battle with drink, more than one attempt at suicide, and finally experienced recovery and salvation from the most unexpected of sources.


For Viv, telling the full story was crucial. Her journey to finding a redemptive peace within herself and with her family was a revelation that she felt compelled to relate. And with her permission, I’ve taken on the task of finishing my Mum’s work.

Told from my perspective, and with contributions from other members of Viv’s family, “You Don’t Know Viv” completes the unforgettable story of a “lass from Cass” and ensures that the true events of her extraordinary life will never be forgotten.

A memoir

By Howard Nicholson



Viv Nicholson... Famous Pools Winner.  That’s me. People have never forgotten it. That’s who I am to a lot of people. It was big news back then though. Who’d have thought, me Viv Nicholson a Cas las from Castleford, in the papers, dressed to the nines and money to burn.

We’d struggled back then. Me, Keith and the kids just about got by on 7 pound a week. We borrowed that 5 bob from my mam to put on the pools. It was only the third time we’d put money on and when I heard those score draws I remember thinking, well, at least we can pay that back now. It didn’t sink in straight away. We’d really hit the jackpot!


4 million it was, in today’s money. It caused an uproar. It wasn’t like today with lottery winners every week and all your reality TV stars in the papers. People like me didn’t hit the big time, but there I was!


All my life I’d had nothing. You know, I’d been working since I was 12 to bring money home when dad was on the sick and suddenly me, Viv Nicholson, a miner’s daughter brought up on a pittance, could have it all and that is what I vowed to do.


In 1961 our win was the biggest ever and all eyes were on me when they asked me what I would do with it and i came out with those three little words… “Spend, Spend, Spend!“.


Up 'til that win, everything I’d got had a hole in it. Straight off i bought 7 outfits and 7 pairs of shoes to match, then it was back to the cobbles in a Cadillac. I didn’t even have a license but so what! The people of Castleford lined the streets and the press were all over us. Then the parties started. It was the sixties, we were just kids and they were wild times. With all that money landing in our laps it seemed suddenly like there were no limits. We travelled like we’d always dreamt of doing. Booze, big cars, big spending, big headlines. We were never out the papers back then.


It seemed like we had it all but it wasn’t really a bed of roses. A lot of people turned their backs on us. We didn’t quite fit in anywhere but worse than that was the money, the drinking and the partying came between me and Keith. We had some fantastic times together. The best of times but, looking back, we’d never been closer than when we were skint and splitting a packet of fags. He was the love of my life.

Just 4 years after that Littlewoods win, I lost him. Keith was killed at the wheel of his Jag aged just 27. Without him I was a lost soul.


The tax man took what was left of the money and in the years that followed I almost went under… but somehow I bounced back. Three more husbands, singing for my supper in the clubs and a battle with booze later I’m back here in Castleford waiting for pension day. There’s been a West End musical, A best selling novel and a film play for today made about my life. Talk about highs and lows! The musical has been a hit and I’ve made some great friends through the theatre. Just like me it’s coming home for a run at Castleford theatre so maybe I’ll be the talk of the town again. Not bad for a pensioner, eh?