Thomas Andrews was born on 7th February 1873 in Comber, eleven miles from Belfast. His family were well-known business people. His father Thomas, was chairman of the Belfast and Co. Down Railway and partner in the John Andrews & Co. Flax Spinners. His mother was Eliza Pirrie, sister of
Viscount Pirrie, part owner of Harland and Wolff, Belfast shipbuilders.
Apprenticeship & career
In 1884 Thomas Andrews enrolled in the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. At the age of 16 he began a 5 year premium apprenticeship at Harland and Wolff. Thomas was a studious and dedicated student often studying late into the night. He began working in the joiners shop and progressed through the various departments, completing his apprenticeship with 18 months in the drawing office.
In 1901 he became manager of construction works and a member of the Institute of Naval Architects. Six years later, having proved himself a master of ship design, Thomas was appointed managing director and head of the drafting section at Harland and Wolff.
On 24 th June 1908, Thomas Andrews married Helen Reilly Barbour at Lamberg Parish Church. The couple lived at Windsor Ave in Belfast. They had one daughter, named Elizabeth Law-Barbour Andrews, known as Elba from her initials.
In 1907 Harland and Wolff were commissioned to build three premier ships for the White Star Line – the RMS Olympic, the RMS Titanic and the RMS Britannic. William Pirrie, general manager Alexander Carlisle and Andrews oversaw the design and manufacture of the three ocean liners. They were
deemed to be the largest, most luxurious and safest ships of the day.
Thomas Andrews was on board the Titanic for her maiden voyage on 10th April 1912. When the ship struck an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean, Andrews was called to inspect the damage. On realising that he ship would inevitably sink, Thomas spent his remaining time getting as many people as possible onto the lifeboats. When the Titanic foundered at 2:30am, Andrew perished along with 1,500 passengers and crew.
Throughout his life, Thomas Andrews was noted for his kindness and generosity. He was respected and admired but also liked by his employees. He has been described as a kind and warm-hearted man by those who knew him. His wife Helen, recalled that he had of himself “the humblest opinion of anyone I ever knew”.
In the subsequent enquiries into the loss of the Titanic, no reprobation was ever made against Andrews. Indeed it was discovered that Thomas had wanted 48 lifeboats installed on the Titanic instead of 20, but he was overruled.
Interview with the Titanic officers. All unanimous that Andrews died a heroic death, thinking only of others safety. Extended heartfelt sympathy to allTelegram received by Thomas’s father on 19th April 1912 from New York
The story of the Titanic still reverberates around the world with movies, documentaries and books galore. The award winning Titanic Belfast visitor attraction opened in 2012 at the docks where the Titanic was constructed. The attraction ticket includes access to the SS Nomadic which was built to transfer passengers to and from RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic. This is the only surviving White Star Line vessel in existence today.
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