Baroness Strange

Lords 'original' who championed war widows
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The Independent Online

Jean Cherry Drummond, politician and writer: born London 17 December 1928; succeeded 1986 after termination of abeyance as Baroness Strange (16th in line); elected Member, House of Lords 1999; married 1952 Captain Humphrey Evans (assumed name of Drummond of Megginch 1966 by decree of Lord Lyon; three sons, three daughters); died Megginch, Perthshire 10 March 2005.

When, in 1999, there was an election among hereditary peers, candidates were asked to say in 75 words why they should remain members of the House of Lords. Cherry Strange gave as a reason: "I bring flowers every week to this House from my castle in Perthshire." Eccentric, it was thought, but she was elected. Actually, Strange was not so much eccentric as an "original" - which is rather different.

She was a sedulous parliamentarian, a frequent contributor, often commendably brief, in the Lords, and a regular attender at the Inter-Parliamentary Union. On overseas visits of the All Party Heritage Group the bulky Cherry Strange and her ramrod Grenadier Guards husband, Captain Humphrey Drummond MC were huge assets.

Jean Cherry Drummond was born in 1928, the eldest daughter of John Drummond of Megginch. She was packed off to school as a seven-year-old to a somewhat Spartan boarding school, Oxenfoord Castle. There Strange recollected she learnt to get on with life whatever happened, never feeling sorry for herself or, to use one of her own favourite Lallans words, "girning".

Soon after graduating from the small St Andrews University of Principal Knox she married in 1952 the outstandingly handsome Humphrey Evans (later Drummond). She looked after their three sons and three daughters, and the medieval keep and lands of Megginch in Perthshire. Her hospitality was proverbial.

In 1982 her father died, having established his claim to be 15th Baron Strange after an epic struggle in the Lyon Court. His cousin and predecessor the ninth Duke of Atholl died in 1957, but the title was in abeyance until 1964. It again went into abeyance, Cherry establishing her claim over her sisters only in 1986.

Strange chose to make her maiden speech in the House of Lords, on 4 March 1987, on the English language:

It is a subject which is very close to my heart. Our English language is one of the chief glories of our nation, which reached its finest flower in the beautiful prose of the Authorised Version of the Bible and the King James VI Book of Common Prayer . . . From the earliest Anglo-Saxon our language has evolved and grown. The Normans brought it their words of Norman French, though, my Lords, it is a sad social reflection on the Norman Conquest that, while my Norman ancestor Aubrey de Vere, the noble Earl of Oxford, was feasting on roast beef, veal, peaches and wine, my Saxon forebears had to make do with oxtail stew, calves' brains, apples and ale.

Strange herself contributed to the corpus of English literature, writing several novels under the name Cherry Evans, such as Love from Belinda (1962), and a work of history, The Remarkable Life of Victoria Drummond, Marine Engineer (by Cherry Drummond, 1994).

Cherry Strange made one cause her own in the Lords - that of the war widows. From 1990 she was President of the War Widows Association of Great Britain.

Tam Dalyell

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