Belfast Telegraph

Last surviving child of Sir Norman Stronge who was murdered by IRA dies aged 93

By Gillian Halliday

The last surviving child of Sir Norman Stronge - the former Stormont Speaker murdered by the IRA 37 years ago - has passed away at the age of 93.

Evelyn Elizabeth Olivier (nee Stronge), known as Evie, was the second of four children born to Sir Norman - who was brutally killed at his Co Armagh home in 1981 - and his wife, Gladys Olive Hall.

Born on February 12, 1925, in Aghadowey, Co Londonderry, Evie spent her early years in the north west.

Her father - who would become a prominent member of the Ulster Unionist Party - was working at the time for her grandfather, Charles Stronge, a land agent to one of the Guilds of Londonderry.

It was a place she would fondly look back on in her later years, cherishing her times spent there with her older sister, Daphne, and her infant sister, Rosemary, Sir Norman's third child who tragically died during the late 1920s, aged just two, from a sudden illness.

By the following decade, Sir Norman brought Evie and her remaining siblings back to the family ancestral home at Tynan Abbey in Co Armagh after the death of his father's third cousin, Sir James Stronge.

The family believed it was important for a younger generation of Stronges to live at the abbey, in order to bring some life back to the historic estate. The Stronges were very happy back in Tynan for a number of years - it was the place where Sir Norman and Gladys welcomed the birth of their only son, James.

As a child, Evie was schooled at the local Milford Girls' Prep School, but was later sent across the Irish Sea to England were she attended Bedgebury Park, Kent.

Her education there, however, was disrupted only a year later when the outbreak of the Second World War prompted her return to Co Armagh.

Towards the end of the war, when she was old enough, Evie followed in her sister Daphne's footsteps by joining the Women's Royal Naval Service, known as WRENS.

She had to make weekly trips to Belfast, alongside women from the local Fruitfield jam factory who were also in the WRENS. Once the war was over, Evie spent more than three years travelling throughout Australia and New Zealand, while funding her journey by working as a nanny.

On her return to Northern Ireland she met the man she was to marry, Brigadier Charles Olivier, the second cousin of world-famous actor, Laurence Olivier.

Evie became stepmother to Charles' three children, Carol, Katherine and Robert.

Their happiness, however, was shattered in later years by the loss of her mother, Gladys, in 1980.

Tragedy was to strike the family again a year later when, on January 21, 1981, two members of the Provisional IRA broke into Tynan Abbey, and shot dead Sir Norman, then aged 86, and Evie's 48-year-old brother James, as they watched television in the library.

The terrorists then set the abbey alight, leaving the landmark in ruins. It was demolished in 1998.

Having established a new life in England, Evie made her home in Hampshire after her husband retired from the army. Sadly, she was to lose Charles to dementia in 2010.

Seven years later, Evie was also to succumb to the onset of the condition, as well as enduring failing health.

She would later return to Co Armagh, where she spent the last eight months of her life.

She passed away peacefully on May 3.

Her funeral was held in Hampshire at St Mary's Church, Amport, on May 28.

Evie's life will be remembered locally at a service of thanksgiving at St Vindic's Parish Church, Tynan this Sunday at noon.

Belfast Telegraph

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