Stronge, Sir Charles Norman Lockhart (1894–1981), 8th baronet, politician, was born 23 July 1894 in Bryansford, Co. Down, the only son among two children of Sir Charles Edmond Sinclair Stronge (1862–1939) of Tynan Abbey, Co. Armagh, and Marian Iliff Stronge (née Bostock) of Walton Heath, Epsom, England. The family held one of Ulster's oldest baronetcies and had a distinguished tradition in public life. Educated at Eton, he served in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the first world war and was mentioned by Sir Douglas Haig in dispatches after the opening battle on the Somme in July 1916. He was awarded the MC and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. After the war he began farming in Co. Londonderry, moving seven years later to his ancestral home, Tynan Abbey, on the death of his cousin Sir James Stronge. He became the 8th baronet in 1939, a year after his election to Stormont for Mid Armagh. While in Londonderry he had been high sheriff of the county since 1934; he was appointed high sheriff for Armagh in 1940.
At the outbreak of war in 1939 he joined the North Irish Horse as a lieutenant but had to relinquish his commission the following year due to ill health. He was then granted the rank of captain. Resuming his political career, he became assistant parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Finance (1941–2) and then parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Finance (chief whip) (1942–4). His period as chief whip was marked by more robust and ‘fluid’ debate within the party and significant backbench discontent in early 1943. In June 1944 he was elected chairman of Armagh county council, and in the following year was returned unopposed in the general election. He became speaker of the Stormont parliament in 1945 and in this position he earned the respect of, and made friends with, politicians of every hue, and was regarded as a moderating influence; it has been said of him that he disproved the myth that politicians at Stormont never spoke to each other. He was unopposed in every postwar election up to 1965, when he saw off the challenge of the Liberal candidate. He did not contest the 1969 general election. He was made Chevalier of the Order of Leopold in 1946 and in the same year was appointed to the privy council of Northern Ireland. A member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, he was a delegate to its 1950 conference in New Zealand. Another interest was the Royal Overseas League, of which he was president for a time.
Stronge was closely associated with Sir Basil Brooke (qv), Dame Dehra Parker (qv), and Sir Harry Mulholland (qv). He was president of the Northern Ireland area council of the British Legion, sovereign grand master of the Royal Black Preceptory, president of the Federation of Boys’ Clubs, and chairman of the Commercial Insurance Co. and of the Central Advisory Council for the Employment of the Disabled. It was this last position that caused a brief interruption of his speakership, with an act of parliament deemed necessary to remove any doubt about it having been an office of profit. A prominent member of the Orange order, he was also chairman of the BBC appeals advisory committee and the Northern Ireland scout council. His retirement from public life in 1977 was marked by his investiture as a Knight of Grace by Prince Richard, duke of Gloucester.
A leading member of the Church of Ireland, he became Commander of the Order of St John in 1952, and was for many years on the Armagh diocesan synod and council. Until his death, he was a nominator for the position of rector and read the lessons each Sunday morning in Tynan parish church. He married (September 1921) Gladys Olive, daughter of Maj. Henry Thomas Hall of Knockbrack, Athenry, Co. Galway; they had three daughters and a son, James. In his later life Sir Norman lived with James, a bachelor, on their 800-acre estate near the border. James (b. 21 June 1932) was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He succeeded his father in the Mid Armagh constituency in 1969, serving as Ulster Unionist MP in the Stormont parliament until 1972. He was firmly opposed to the Sunningdale agreement of December 1973, which he described as a ‘great act of political appeasement’ (Elliott & Flackes, 460). Although both were known in the locality, neither sought public attention and both lived relatively quiet lives. Sir Norman liked to work in the garden but had little interest in the farm, most of which was let out to tenants.
Sir Norman and his son became prominent victims of the troubles when a unit of the provisional IRA shot them dead on 21 January 1981 at Tynan Abbey and set the mansion alight, destroying it. The Provisional IRA statement described them as ‘symbols of hated unionism’ and their killings as ‘direct reprisal for a whole series of loyalist assassinations and murder attacks on nationalist people’ (Ir. Times, 23 Jan. 1981). The killings came five days after an attempted assassination of the former MP Bernadette McAliskey and her husband. Tynan Abbey was long held to have been an easy target, given its relative isolation and its proximity to the border. In 1985 a man was tried for their murders, but acquitted. In 1999 the shell of Tynan Abbey was demolished.