Covid-19 survivors raffle 150-year-old Mayo cottage

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Image caption,
The 150-year-old cottage is nestled under the Ox Mountains

A County Mayo couple who survived Covid-19 have raised almost €1m (£888,260) for healthcare workers by raffling their 150-year-old cottage.

Thousands of people bought tickets to support hospital workers with the aim of winning the home nestled under the Ox Mountains near Foxford.

The lucky winner was Dublin woman Michele Hallahan.

Ms Hallahan said she found out she had won after being contacted by a Canadian radio show.

"I got a WhatsApp message on Saturday morning from a guy in Canada who runs a radio show asking me if he could interview me about the cottage," she told BBC News NI's Good Morning Ulster.

"The next thing I went into my emails and sure enough there was an email from the auctioneer Carol Kelly and from the owners to say congratulations."

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Image caption,
Michelle Hallahan gets her first look at her new cottage

She added: "Then I was like 'Oh my God it's true, it's actually real'. I was absolutely thrilled, I was just so excited."

Ms Hallahan said she had bought five tickets in the raffle more to help healthcare workers than with any real expectation of winning the cottage.

"You enter these competitions and you always think it'll never be me that gets picked from the hat," she said.

"So it was really a donation to the frontline workers and, to be honest, it had gone out of my mind after that."

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Image caption,
Ms Hallahan said she planned to see if she could work remotely in the cottage

The previous owner of the cottage, who wishes to remain anonymous but gave her name as Joan, said both she and her husband had Covid-19, with her husband being seriously ill at one point.

"We thought we'd like to do something to support the HSE, the healthcare system in Ireland," Joan said.

"We decided that we would raffle the cottage and see if we could, as a thank you gesture, give something to the people who work in the healthcare system that go into the hospitals every day and, especially during the current crisis, expose themselves and their families to infection."

Joan said she was delighted with how much money the raffle raised.

"It's absolutely amazing and it's very heartwarming for me to realise that there are so many good people in Ireland and all over the world who would put their hands in their pockets and buy tickets to support this project," she said.

Image source, RTE
Image caption,
The raffle raised almost €1m (£888,260)

"We'd like to set up some kind of educational bursary and we would like to see how that goes."

She added: "I'm so glad Michelle has won it because she's just a lovely person and she's going to be really happy in the cottage."

Ms Hallahan returned the compliment: "We just met yesterday, but even from the first phone call with herself and her husband I felt that they were incredibly kind people and just lovely human beings."

'A beautiful place'

She said she got to see her new home for the first time on Tuesday.

"It was very moving, I was in tears when I walked in the door, it feels like a beautiful place," she said.

"I love the fact that it's so old and some of the walls are uneven inside, it's really, really lovely."

So will she be moving west permanently?

"I'm living in Dublin and working remotely," she said.

"I'll definitely toy with the idea of coming down and spend a week here for sure and see if I can work remotely.

"If so I'll plan on spending a good chunk of time down here."