Remembering Viv Nicholson: The Cas lass who reached super stardom- by spending her husband's money

The Airedale born beauty who became famous when she told the media she would "spend, spend, spend!"
The Airedale born beauty who became famous when she told the media she would "spend, spend, spend!"

We’re taking a look into the interesting life of Viv Nicholson, the lass from Cas whose rags to riches story inspired a book, a West End production and one of the Smiths single covers.

In 1960s Yorkshire, the working class dedicated their sanity, health and time into working gruelling hours in mines and factories, to put another meal on the table.

A young Bruce Forsyth presenting the winning pools cheque to Nicholson and her husband Keith in 1961.

A young Bruce Forsyth presenting the winning pools cheque to Nicholson and her husband Keith in 1961.

Viv Nicholson, a 25 year old Castlford-born housewife worked long hours in a Liquorice factory to feed her family in their Airedale home. She and her husband, a miner named Keith, were earning just £7 a week each.

Little did they both know, Viv would soon be catapulted into super stardom - by spending money that her husband won.

In 1961, Keith swept an unexpected win on the football pools of a massive £152,300, 18 shillings and eight pence - worth around 4 million in today's currency.

After finding out they had won, the couple could barely afford a pint each to celebrate, Viv said: “We had just enough for a pint for Keith and a half for me.” and “Back then, even the eight pence meant something.” The pair loved to drink in the former Miners arms pub.

The life of Viv Nicholson inspired a West End musical, a book and a classic Smiths single cover.

The life of Viv Nicholson inspired a West End musical, a book and a classic Smiths single cover.

The overnight millionaires headed to London to collect their winnings, Viv wearing borrowed tights and bits of cardboard for shoe soles. From not being able to afford a pair of tights, Viv was soon living the high life, after famously announcing to reporters that she was going to “spend, spend spend!”

A media storm generated following a series of broadcast interviews with Viv, the tabloids couldn’t resist falling in love with her bold and blunt northern charm. The nation couldn’t get enough of Viv, both envying and adoring her.

Viv spent, spent, spent in glorious excess. She lived the life of luxury with a brand new home, holidays, the best new cars and a designer wardrobe.

The Smiths asked her to pose for one of their single covers, ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.’ Lead singer Morrisey was a Viv Nicholson fan, so much so, he used a line from her autobiography in the song ‘Still Ill.’

Stories are told of her endless generosity, she gave huge sums of money to charity and to those in need, she once walked into a Castleford cafe and bought all the customers a breakfast.

Life wasn’t always so kind to Viv, local jealousy saw her very lonely at times and some bad investments were made. She lost a large sum of money to the tax man, after Keith was killed in a road accident. Following the tragedy, Viv battled with severe alcoholism and depression and by the time she reached 40, the money was all gone.

She took to performing 'Big Spender' in a Manchester strip club, but her time there was short lived because she strongly refused to take off her underwear.

There were happier times on the horizons for Viv, she remarried three more times and became a Jehovahs Witness in the 1980s and gave up drinking. A decade afterwards, her life and times inspired the musical ‘Spend, spend, spend.’

The royalties from the musical made her another fortune- which was also short lived.

Viv died in 2015 after suffering with dementia, her children would outlive her. One of her sons, Howard Nichsolson, penned her memoirs entitled ‘You Don’t Know Viv: the Vivian Nicholson Story.’

The people of five towns have their own fond memories of Viv, from seeing her around Castleford to speaking to her when she worked in the Ridings shopping centre in Wakefield.

The story of Vivian Nicholson, the diamond in the North, is one of glamour and tragedy, years on, she still remains one of the most interesting people to have captured the hearts of a nation.