Viv Nicholson

The phrase ‘had it, lost it’ is usually applied to talent or fame, not the financial rewards the two can bring. However, for one woman who gained celebrity for winning a large sum of money, the fame remained for all the wrong reasons long after the money was gone.

‘Spend, Spend, Spend’ was Viv Nicholson’s reply in 1961 when asked what she planned to do with the £152,319.00 (the equivalent of £3 million today) she’d won on the football pools – and that’s just what she did.

Times were hard for the 25-year-old mother of three who was earning a mere £7 per week working in a liquorice factory. Her husband, Keith, wasn't bringing in much more down the pit as a trainee coalminer. Deciding to try and change her luck, Viv began to play the football pools which offered big cash prizes. After playing for only three weeks, and having borrowed the money to enter, she correctly predicted eight score-draw football matches.

Three days later when Viv and her husband arrived at Kings Cross Station in London on their way to the Littlewoods pools company office, they found themselves mobbed by a waiting media who turned them into national celebrities the next day, with the Daily Mail running the story on the front page with Viv's now infamous quote as the headline.

Fame and fortune turned out to be a tough mistress however, and Viv and her husband soon found their ostentatious lifestyle at odds with the coalmining community of Castelford, West Yorkshire, where they lived, so the Nicholsons moved away to a luxury home in an affluent neighbourhood.

But the fairytale turned into a nightmare, and the ‘Spend, spend, spend,’ lifestyle of expensive clothes, fast cars and booze soon took its toll. Shortly after the move, Viv’s husband Keith went out drinking and died at the wheel of his Jaguar on the way home.

As a good looking young widow with cash and a big house, Viv became an easy target for gold diggers. Several marriages later the money was gone. She soon found herself living back on the streets of Castleford, and with only memories of a life of excess remaining, Viv turned to stripping to put food on the table for her kids.

In the Seventies, Nicholson’s rags-to-riches-to-rags tale once again captured the nation’s interest when she published her autobiography, unsurprisingly titled: Spend, Spend, Spend. A TV play by the BBC soon followed, as did a stage production of the same name. However, the Yorkshire lass’s champagne tastes juxtaposed with beer money, soon saw off the money she earned from her story.

Today, an unrepentant Viv Nicholson is in her early seventies, she is a Jehovah ’s Witness, and lives in a council flat on a state pension of less than £90 a week.

Viv Nicholson makes the list of Great Britons for having had a penchant for miniskirts and knee-length boots, being atypically rubbish with money, and still liking £70 perfumes even though she is skint.