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The Right Honourable
Sir Norman Stronge
Sir Norman Stronge wearing the Speaker's wig
Speaker of the
Northern Ireland House of Commons

In office

In office
Member of the
Northern Ireland House of Commons

In office
Constituency Mid Armagh
Personal details
Born (1894-07-23)23 July 1894
Bryansford, County Down, Ireland
Died 21 January 1981(1981-01-21) (aged 86)
Tynan Abbey, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Political party Ulster Unionist Party
Spouse(s) Gladys Olive Hall
Children Sir James Stronge, 9th Baronet and others
Religion Church of Ireland

Captain Sir Charles Norman Lockhart Stronge, 8th Baronet, MC, PC (NI), JP (23 July 1894 – 21 January 1981) was a senior Unionist politician in Northern Ireland.

Prior to his involvement in politics he was a British Army officer, decorated with the Military Cross in World War I and having fought at the Battle of the Somme. His positions after the war included Speaker of the Northern Ireland House of Commons, for twenty-three years, and member of the Privy Council of Northern Ireland, to which he was appointed in 1946.

He was shot and killed,[1] aged 86, along with his son, James, by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1981 at Tynan Abbey, their home, which was burnt to the ground during the attack.

Early life and military service

Sir Norman was born in Bryansford, County Down, Ireland, the son of Sir Charles Stronge, 7th Baronet and Marian Bostock, whose family were from Epsom.[2] He was educated at Eton.

In the First World War he served in France and Flanders with the 10th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, as lieutenant and later as captain.[3] He was decorated with the Military Cross[4] and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. He survived the first day of the Battle of the Somme and was the first soldier after the start of the battle to be mentioned in despatches by Lord Haig. In April 1918, he was appointed adjutant of the 15th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles.[5] He was wounded, whilst near Kortrijk, on 20 October 1918.[6] He relinquished his commission on 19 August 1919, and was permitted to retain the rank of captain.[7]

On the outbreak of the Second World War, he was again commissioned, this time into the North Irish Horse, Royal Armoured Corps, reverting to second lieutenant.[8] He relinquished the commission on 20 April 1940 due to ill-health.[9] In 1950 he was appointed Honorary Colonel of a Territorial Army unit of the Royal Irish Fusiliers.[10]

Political career

Sir Norman was appointed Sheriff of County Londonderry in January 1934.[11] He was elected as an Ulster Unionist member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland for Mid Armagh in the byelection of 29 September 1938,[12][13] and held the seat until his retirement in 1969.[14][15][16][17][18][19] He made his maiden speech on 20 October, supporting the Marketing of Potatoes Bill.[20]

In his career at Stormont, he became Assistant Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance (Assistant Whip) from 16 January 1941;[21] on 6 February 1942 he was promoted to be Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance (Chief Whip).[22] He held this post at the time when John Miller Andrews was deposed as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and replaced by Sir Basil Brooke due to backbench pressure from Ulster Unionist MPs. On 3 November 1944 Sir Norman stood down from the government.

Arms of the Stronge Baronets, of Tynan

When the new Parliament assembled on 17 July 1945 Stronge was nominated as Speaker of the Northern Ireland House of Commons by Lord Glentoran, who said that Stronge came from a "family which has been known for generations for its fairness, its courtesy, and its neighbourliness, and for that feeling of kindliness which is so essential to the Speaker of this House".[23] The nomination was seconded by Jack Beattie, a Nationalist who sat as an Independent Labour MP.

On 30 October 1945 Sir Norman was involved in a dispute in the chamber. A Minister in the government had been taken ill and was unable to answer a series of Parliamentary Questions which had been put to him; Stronge allowed the Members who had put the questions to defer them until the Minister had recovered.[24] Jack Beattie protested that this was not correct procedure, and Stronge agreed to look at it further; this decision incensed Harry Midgley, who had personal grievances with Beattie, and Midgley shouted at Stronge "Are you not competent to discharge your duties without advice from this Member on his weekly visits to the House?" Despite Stronge calling for order, Midgley then crossed over and punched Beattie. Stronge excluded him from the Chamber for the rest of the sitting,[25] and Midgley apologised the next day.[26]

Sir Norman was appointed to the Privy Council of Northern Ireland in 1946.[27][28][29] He was Chairman of Armagh County Council[30] from 1944 to 1955. Amongst other positions he held were Lord Lieutenant of Armagh (1939 – 1981),[31][32] (he was a Deputy Lieutenant from 1931[33][34]) President of the Northern Ireland Council of the Royal British Legion and Justice of the Peace for both Counties Armagh and Londonderry. He was the Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution and a member of Derryshaw Boyne Defenders Orange Lodge of the Orange Order. Sir Norman was appointed a Commander Brother of the Venerable Order of Saint John in 1952,[35] and promoted to Knight in 1964.[36]

In 1956, one of Stronge's outside posts caused a difficulty. He had been named on the Central Advisory Council on Disabled Persons, a position which brought no remuneration in practice but could have done so in theory. It was realised that the theoretical possibility of money being paid meant that this was an "Office of Profit under the Crown" which disqualified him from election. On 16 January 1956 Stronge wrote to resign his post as Speaker temporarily, so that legislation could be passed to validate his actions and indemnify him from the consequences of acting while disqualified.[37] Owing to the constitutional provisions of the Government of Ireland Act, this legislation had to be passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Once it had been passed, on 23 April 1956 the Speaker who had been elected temporarily (W. F. McCoy) resigned.[38] Stronge was unanimously re-elected on 26 April, referring in his speech accepting nomination to his time away from Parliament looking after his farm: "I have had more time to look at bullocks, and more time to look at their prices".[39]


Sir Norman was married on 15 September 1921 to Gladys Olive Hall,[40] she was the daughter of Major H. T. Hall,[2] originally from Athenry, County Galway,[2][41] and had four children,

  • James Stronge (who was killed with him),
  • Daphne Marian Stronge (d. 2002,[42] married Thomas Kingan, of Bangor, County Down. Her son, James, now owns the Tynan Abbey estate;[42] he has been an UUP candidate for North Down Council[42]),[40]
  • Evelyn Elizabeth Stronge (married Brig.Charles Harold Arthur Olivier on 17 September 1960),[40]
  • Rosemary Diana Stronge (died aged one).[40]

After his retirement from politics in 1969, he farmed the family's several thousand acre estate at Tynan Abbey.


Sir Norman was killed aged 86, alongside his son James, watching television in the library of their home,[42] Tynan Abbey, on the evening of 21 January 1981, by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, armed with machine guns and grenades.[42]

The Stronge family's home was then burnt to the ground as a result of two bomb explosions.[43] On seeing the explosions at the house (and a flare Stronge lit in an attempt to alert the authorities), the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British Army troops arrived at the scene and established a road-block at the gate lodge. They encountered at least eight fleeing gunmen. There followed a gunfight lasting twenty minutes in which at least two hundred shots were fired. There were no casualties among the security forces.[6] The bodies of the father and son were later discovered in the library of their blazing home, each had gunshot wounds in the head.[43]


Tynan Abbey

It is not known who died first, Sir Norman or James. Under the legal fiction known as the doctrine of survival, James is still listed as succeeding to the baronetcy.[44]

Sir Norman was buried in Tynan Parish church in a joint service with his son. The sword and cap of the Lord Lieutenant of Tyrone (Major John Hamilton-Stubber) were placed on his coffin in lieu of his own, which had been destroyed with his other possessions in the fire.[6] The coffin was carried by the 5th Battalion the Royal Irish Rangers, the successors to his old regiment. During the service a telegram, sent from Queen Elizabeth II to one of Sir Norman's daughters, was read. It stated:[45]

I was deeply shocked to learn of the tragic death of your father and brother; Prince Philip joins me in sending you and your sister all our deepest sympathy on your dreadful loss. Sir Norman's loyal and distinguished service will be remembered.

—Elizabeth II

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Humphrey Atkins, was informed by friends of the Stronge family that he would not be welcome at the funeral because of government policy on border security.[46] Atkins left the Northern Ireland Office later that year to be replaced by Jim Prior.

Sir Norman is commemorated with a tablet in the assembly chamber in the Parliament Buildings at Stormont.[47]


The Provisional IRA immediately released a statement in Belfast, quoted in The Times: "This deliberate attack on the symbols of hated unionism was a direct reprisal for a whole series of loyalist assassinations and murder attacks on nationalist peoples and nationalist activities." This followed the loyalist attempted murder of Bernadette McAliskey and her husband Michael McAliskey on 16 January, and the loyalist assassinations of four republican activists which had taken place since May 1980, Miriam Daly, John Turnley, Noel Lyttle and Ronnie Bunting.[48]

The killing was referred to as murder by multiple media sources including The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, The New York Times and Time magazine magazine, by the Rev. Ian Paisley in the House of Commons and by Lord Cooke of Islandreagh in the House of Lords.[49]

Sir Norman was described at the time of his death by Social Democratic and Labour Party politician Austin Currie as having been "even at 86 years of age … still incomparably more of a man than the cowardly dregs of humanity who ended his life in this barbaric way."[50]

When discussing the killing of the Stronges and the Kingsmill massacre, a Tyrone republican and Gaelic Athletic Association veteran speaking to Ed Moloney said, "It's a lesson you learn quickly on the football field … If you're fouled, you hit back".[51]

Gerry Adams had the following to say on the killing of Sir Norman; "The only complaint I have heard from nationalists or anti-unionists is that he was not shot 40 years ago".[52]


In 1984, Seamus Shannon was arrested by the Garda in the Republic of Ireland and handed over to the Royal Ulster Constabulary on a warrant accusing him of involvement in the murder of the Sir Norman and Sir James Stronge. The Irish Supreme Court, considering his extradition to Northern Ireland, rejected the defence that these were political offences, saying that they were "so brutal, cowardly and callous that it would be a distortion of language if they were to be accorded the status of a political offence". Shannon was extradited but later acquitted.[53][54]

See also

Further reading

  • Burke's Peerage & Baronetage. 1975. 

Notes and references

  1. The IRA; Tim Pat Coogan ISBN 0-00-636943-X Chp 33
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 ‘STRONGE, Captain Rt. Hon. Sir (Charles) Norman (Lockhart)’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 4 Dec 2010
  3. "No. 29820". 10 November 1916. 
  4. "No. 30450". 28 December 1917. 
  5. "No. 30850". 16 August 1918. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Stronge of Tynan Abbey, Co. Armagh Turtle Bunbury
  7. "No. 31612". 21 October 1919. 
  8. "No. 34704". 6 October 1939. 
  9. "No. 34832". 16 April 1940. 
  10. "No. 39102". 29 December 1950. 
  11. "No. 656". 19 January 1934. 
  12. "No. 902". 7 October 1938. 
  13. Mid Armagh election results
  14. "No. 1256". 20 July 1945. 
  15. "No. 1445". 4 March 1949. 
  16. "No. 1689". 6 November 1953. 
  17. "No. 1919". 4 April 1958. 
  18. "No. 216". 15 June 1962. 
  19. "No. 2334". 3 December 1965. 
  20. Hansard, House of Commons of Northern Ireland, Vol. 21, Col. 1778, via Stormont Papers.
  21. "No. 1021". 17 January 1941. 
  22. "No. 1076". 6 February 1942. 
  23. Hansard, House of Commons of Northern Ireland, Vol. 29, Col. 3, via Stormont Papers.
  24. Hansard, House of Commons of Northern Ireland, Vol. 29, Col. 896, via Stormont Papers.
  25. Hansard, House of Commons of Northern Ireland, Vol. 29, Cols. 910-11, via Stormont Papers.
  26. Hansard, House of Commons of Northern Ireland, Vol. 29, Col. 952, via Stormont Papers.
  27. "No. 1280". 4 January 1946. 
  28. "No. 1289". 8 March 1946. 
  29. Biographies of Members of the Northern Ireland House of Commons
  30. "No. 1308". 19 July 1946. 
  31. "No. 963". 8 December 1939. 
  32. "No. 3164". 27 June 1975. 
  33. "No. 505". 27 February 1931. 
  34. "No. 637". 8 September 1933. 
  35. "No. 39433". 1 January 1952. 
  36. "No. 43219". 14 January 1964. 
  37. Hansard, House of Commons of Northern Ireland, Vol. 39, Col. 3141, via Stormont Papers.
  38. Hansard, House of Commons of Northern Ireland, Vol. 40, Col. 927, via Stormont Papers.
  39. Hansard, House of Commons of Northern Ireland, Vol. 40, Col. 931, via Stormont Papers.
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 Stronge family tree
  41. Turtle Bunbury; Stronge of Tynan Abbey
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 42.3 42.4 Turtle Bunbury; Stronge of Tynan Abbey
  43. 43.0 43.1 The Times, 22 January 1981
  44. Burkes Peerage
  45. Tragic estate resurrected. The News Letter 12 May 2006
  46. Craig Seton (26 January 1981). "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 
  47. 'Memorials to the Casualties of Conflict: Northern Ireland 1969 to 1997' by Jane Leonard (1997) Cain Webservice
  48. Christopher Thomas (23 January 1981). "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 
  49. *Time (in partnership with CNN), 2 February 1981 [1]
    • The New York Times, 30 January 1981 (13th article: "Murders bring fear to Protestants on Ulster border")[2]
    • Commons Hansard, Rev. Ian Paisley, 1992-06-10 [3]
    • The Spectator, 13 December 1997 [4]
    • Lords Hansard, Lord Cooke of Islandreagh, 22 March 2000 [5]
    • The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), 19 January 2001 [6]
    • The Daily Telegraph, 22 November 2001 [7]
    • The Scotsman, 10 April 2006 [8]
  50. In the Shadow of the Gunmen Time Magazine
  51. A Secret History of the IRA, Ed Moloney, 2002. (PB) ISBN 0-393-32502-4 (HB) ISBN 0-7139-9665-X p.320
  52. The Spectator
  53. Seanad Éireann - Volume 139 - 24 March 1994. Extradition (Amendment) Bill, 1994: Second Stage Oireachtas historical debates
  54. House of Commons Hansard Debates for 10 Jun 1992 United Kingdom Parliament website
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Henry Bruce Armstrong
Lord Lieutenant of Armagh
Succeeded by
Michael Torrens-Spence
Unrecognised parameter
Preceded by
John Clarke Davison
Member of Parliament for Mid Armagh
Succeeded by
Sir James Stronge, Bt
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sir Wilson Hungerford
Unionist Assistant Whip
Succeeded by
Robert Corkey
Preceded by
Herbert Dixon, 1st Baron Glentoran
Unionist Chief Whip
Succeeded by
Sir Wilson Hungerford
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Wilson Hungerford
Assistant Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance
Succeeded by
Robert Corkey
Preceded by
Herbert Dixon, 1st Baron Glentoran
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance
Succeeded by
Sir Wilson Hungerford
Preceded by
Sir Henry George Hill Mulholland
Speaker of the Northern Ireland House of Commons
Succeeded by
William Frederick McCoy
Preceded by
William Frederick McCoy
Speaker of the Northern Ireland House of Commons
Succeeded by
Ivan Neill
Preceded by
The Viscount Brookeborough
Father of the House
Succeeded by
Lord O'Neill
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Stronge
(of Tynan)
Succeeded by
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
William Allen
Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Preceptory
Succeeded by
Jim Molyneaux

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