Thomas Andrews (shipbuilder)

Thomas Andrews (shipbuilder)

Infobox Person
name = Thomas Andrews

image_size = 200px
caption =
birth_name =
birth_date = 7 February 1873
birth_place = Comber, County Down, Ireland
death_date = 15 April 1912 (aged 39 years)
death_place = RMS Titanic (sunk), Atlantic Ocean
known_for = Head Designer - RMS Titanic
occupation = Shipbuilder
spouse = Helen Reilly Barbour (1908 - his death)
children = Elizabeth Law Barbour Andrews (born 1910)

Thomas Andrews, Jr. (7 February 187315 April 1912) was an Irish businessman and shipbuilder; managing director and head of the draughting department for the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. Andrews was the shipbuilder in charge of the plans for the ocean liner RMS "Titanic". He was travelling on board the "Titanic" during its maiden voyage when it hit an iceberg on 14 April 1912 and was one of the 1,517 people lost in the disaster.


Early life

Thomas Andrews was born at Ardara House, Comber, County Down, Ireland, to the Right Honourable Thomas Andrews, a member of the Privy Council of Ireland, and Eliza Pirrie. The younger brother to future Northern Ireland Prime Minister John Miller Andrews, Thomas Andrews lived with his family in Ardara, Comber. In 1884, Andrews began attending the Royal Belfast Academical Institution until 1889 when, at the age of sixteen, he began a premium apprenticeship at Harland and Wolff where his uncle The Viscount Pirrie was part owner.

Harland and Wolff

At Harland and Wolff, he began with three months in the joiners' shop, followed by a month in the cabinetmakers' and then a further two months working on the ships. The last eighteen months of his five-year apprenticeship were spent in the drawing office. In 1901, Andrews, after working his way up through the many departments of the company, became the manager of the construction works. That same year, he also became a member of the Institution of Naval Architects. In 1907, Andrews was appointed the managing director and head of the draughting department at Harland and Wolff. During his long years of apprenticeship, study, and work, Andrews had become well liked in the company and amongst the shipyards employees.

On 24 June 1908, he married Helen Reilly Barbour, daughter of John Doherty Barbour and sister to Milne Barbour. Their daughter, Elizabeth Law Barber Andrews (known by her initials, "ELBA"), was born on 27 November 1910. The couple lived at "Dunallan", Windsow Avenue, Belfast. It is known that Andrews took Helen to view the RMS "Titanic" one night, shortly before Elizabeth was born. After Thomas's death, Helen married Henry Peirson Harland (of the Harland and Wolff family) and died 22 August 1966 in Northern Ireland. The family home stands today as the headquarters of the Irish Football Association.

RMS "Titanic"

In 1907, Andrews began to oversee the plans for a new superliner, the RMS "Olympic" for the White Star Line. The "Olympic" and its sister ship the RMS "Titanic", which began construction in 1909, were designed by William Pirrie and general manager Alexander Carlisle along with Andrews. As he had done for the other ships he had overseen, Andrews familiarized himself with every detail of the "Olympic" and "Titanic", in order to ensure that they were in optimal working order.

Andrews headed a group of Harland and Wolff workers who went on the maiden voyages of the ships built by the company, to observe ship operations and spot any necessary improvements. The "Titanic" was no exception, so Andrews and the rest of his Harland and Wolff group travelled from Belfast to Southampton on "Titanic" for the beginning of "Titanic"'s maiden voyage on 10 April 1912. During the voyage, Andrews took notes on various improvements he felt were needed. However, on 14 April, Andrews remarked to a friend that "Titanic" was "as nearly perfect as human brains can make her."

On 14 April at 11:40 PM, the "Titanic" struck an iceberg on the ship’s starboard side. Andrews had been in his stateroom sleeping at the time, and barely noticed the collision. Captain Edward J. Smith had Andrews summoned to help examine the damage. Andrews determined that there was nothing that could be done and that the "Titanic" would sink.

As the evacuation of the "Titanic" began, Andrews searched staterooms telling the passengers to put on lifebelts and go up on deck. Fully aware of the short time the ship had left and of the lack of lifeboat space for all passengers and crew, he continued to urge reluctant people into the lifeboats in the hope of filling them as fully as possible. According to John Stewart, a steward on the ship, Andrews was last seen staring at a painting, "Plymouth Harbor", above the fireplace in the first–class smoking room. The painting depicted the entrance to Plymouth Sound, which "Titanic" had been expected to visit on her return voyage. The painting is often incorrectly shown on television and in movies as depicting the entrance to New York Harbor. Andrews' body was never recovered.

Finally, on 19 April, his father received a telegram from his mother's cousin, who had spoken with survivors in New York, searching for news of Andrews. The telegram was read aloud by Andrews Sr. to the staff of the home in Comber: "INTERVIEW TITANIC'S OFFICERS. ALL UNANIMOUS THAT ANDREWS HEROIC UNTO DEATH, THINKING ONLY SAFETY OTHERS. EXTEND HEARTFELT SYMPATHY TO ALL."


Newspaper accounts of the disaster labelled Andrews a hero. Mary Sloan, a stewardess on the ship who Andrews persuaded to enter a lifeboat, later wrote in a letter: "Mr. Andrews met his fate like a true hero, realizing the great danger, and gave up his life to save the women and children of the "Titanic". They will find it hard to replace him." A short biography was produced within the year by Shan Bullock at the request of Sir Horace Plunkett, a member of parliament, who felt that Andrews' life was worthy of being memorialised. In his home town, Comber, one of the earliest and most substantial memorials for a single victim of the "Titanic" disaster was built. The Thomas Andrews Jr. Memorial Hall was opened in January 1914. The architects were Young and McKenzie with sculpted work by the artist Sophia Rosamond Praegar. The hall is now maintained by the South Eastern Education Board and used by The Andrews Memorial Primary School.


In the 1997 film "Titanic", Thomas Andrews was portrayed by actor Victor Garber. He has also been portrayed by Geoffrey Whitehead in "S.O.S. Titanic" (1979) and by Michael Goodliffe in "A Night to Remember" (1958). On Broadway, Michael Cerveris portrayed him in the 1997 musical "Titanic".


*cite web|author=M. A. Kribble|title=Thomas Andrews: Builder of the Ship of Dreams|work=Thomas Andrews: Builder of the Ship of Dreams|url=|accessmonthday=July 9 |accessyear=2005
*cite web|title=Thomas Andrews||url=|accessmonthday=July 8 |accessyear=2005

External links

* [ Thomas Andrews on]
* [ Encyclopedia Titanica Biography of Thomas Andrews]
* [ Culture Northern Ireland]
* [ Thomas Andrews Shipbuilder] A 1912 biography of Thomas Andrews

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