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A right royal donation: American millionaire donates £40k to charity after Caithness home stars in The Crown

Dr Betsee Parker, owner of Ackergill Tower, has donated £40,000 to Pultneytown People's Project (PPP).
Dr Betsee Parker, owner of Ackergill Tower, has donated £40,000 to Pultneytown People's Project (PPP).

An American millionaire has gifted £40,000 to a Caithness community group after opening the doors of her private residence to producers of the Netflix hit drama The Crown.

Dr Betsee Parker, an Episcopalian minister and philanthropist from Virginia, bought Ackergill Tower in early 2019 after it ceased trading as a luxury hotel.

The 15th century manor, located on the coast of Sinclair’s Bay near Wick, became one of a host of Highland destinations to form the backdrop of the fourth season of the award-winning drama.

Through acknowledging the struggle of rural communities amidst the pandemic Dr Parker opted to support of her fellow ‘neighbours’ by reinvesting the money it is understood was paid for using the castle into the local community.

Ackergill Tower, near Wick

Pulteneytown People’s Project (PPP) received a donation of £40,000 towards their work in supporting those in need.

Meanwhile, £10,000 was also donated to the Episcopal Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness towards its Covid-19 response.

Dr Parker, who served as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 2013-2018, said: “I searched for areas of greatest need in our community.

“I feel that the leaders should decide how best to use the donation. They are the ones who truly know the needs of the community”.

Katrina MacNab, chief executive officer of PPP, praised Dr Parker for her generosity.

She said: “We never expected it. We got a phone call from her solicitor who asked would we be interested and wanted to know a wee bit about what we did.

“Dr Parker phoned herself from Virginia. She blethered for a good hour on the phone, she was lovely.

“The money was actually money that Dr Parker got for The Crown, the Netflix drama, because part of that was filmed in Caithness and they used Ackergrill Tower for a bit of the filming.

“When they did the filming she got paid for that and basically what she has done is she has given that money back to the community.”

The 17th Baroness of Lochiel and goodwill ambassador, has worked closely with the UN in Africa as well as the Vatican receiving many awards for her philanthropic work covering issues including sustainable development, climate change, poverty and hunger.

Dr Parker, owner of the 15th century tower, served as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 2013-2018.

She received two Honorary Doctorates and Distinguished Service Awards for her service in 9/11 and was recipient of an Alumni Achievement Award at Harvard in 2016 after graduating with honours from the University in 1985.

The Caithness-based charity provide a range of services and across the community each year and donated around 14,000 meals to elderly residents during the first lockdown.

Mrs MacNab said they are aiming to reinvest the money to achieve match funding in providing a holistic service for struggling carers across the region.

She added: “We have been really good at getting money from the Scottish Government to do other things though the pandemic but carers is something where we feel there has been a big gap.

“In Wick, if people have a partner with dementia they would go all day to the Laurandy Centre and you would get to go and see your friends and do your own thing and you would have them at night.

“Now all of that is closed, the same with the mental health teams like Haven, so partners are stuck at home all day every day with people.”

“They are pretty isolated, they don’t have the network of friends or the activities they used to go to, they can’t go for an appointment anywhere because they’re a full-time carer 24 hours a day,” Mrs MacNab said.

“We are hoping to try and build up some form of project to support carers and provide something holistic.”

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