Thomas Andrews: A Titanic Builder

Thomas Andrews was born on February 7,1873 in Comber, Ireland (now part of Northern Ireland) to the Rt. Honorable Thomas Andrews and Eliza Pirrie. He was the 2nd of three children in a Presbyterian household. His older brother, John Miller Andrews would become Prime Minister of Northern Ireland serving from 1940 to 1943 and his younger, brother Sir James Andrews would become Chief Lord Justice of Northern Ireland serving from 1937 to 1951.

When he was 16 years old, he applied as an apprentice at Harland & Wolff, a ship building company in Belfast where his uncle, William Pirrie, the 1st Viscount was part owner. He worked from being an apprentice for five years and in 1901, he became manager of construction works. In 1907, he was appointed managing director and head of the Harland & Wolff drafting department. On June 24,1908, he married Helen Reilly Barbour and together they had a daughter named Elizabeth who was born on November 27,1910. In 1907, he began plans for building a superliner, the RMS Olympic for the White Star Line. The Olympic’s first plate was laid down on December 16,1908 and on October 20,1910, she was launched. However, it would be the RMS Titanic, that would be more famous. The Titanic’s first plate was laid down on March 31,1909.

After 2 years, on May 31,1911, she was launched. On April 2,1912, the liner was completed. On April 10,1912, the RMS Titanic departed Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York. Thomas Andrews was aboard when the liner left Southampton. That same day, the RMS Titanic stopped in Cherbourg, France to pick up more passengers. The next day on April 11,1912, the RMS Titanic made her last stop at Queenstown, Ireland to pick up more passengers for the voyage to New York. During the voyage, Andrews took notes on various improvements he felt were needed. All total the RMS Titanic had approximately 2,202 passengers and crew aboard. Among the famous aboard was John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim.

On April 14,1912, the RMS Titanic continued on her maiden voyage to New York. During the day, the ship’s wireless operators got messages about icebergs in the distance. Despite these messages, the RMS Titanic continued steaming fast. At 11:40 PM, in the crow’s nest, lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee spotted a large iceberg. Frederick Fleet called the bridge and Sixth Officer James Moody picked the phone up. Fleet yelled, “Iceberg, right ahead!”. Moody alerted First Officer William Murdoch, who ordered the helmsman Robert Hitchens to change the ship’s course to “Hard astarboard”. However, it proved fatal.

The Titanic scrapped alongside the iceberg opening up rivets of the ship below the waterline. During the collision, Andrews was in his stateroom and barely noticed what had happened. He was summoned by the ship’s commander Captain Edward J. Smith to examine the extent of the damage. After examining and discussing the damage with the captain, he believed in his opinion that the liner would sink in about an hour. Also, there was another problem. The Titanic had only 20 lifeboats and there was 2,202 people aboard. The fact was that everyone was not going to survive. Immediately, the crew began getting the lifeboats prepared. The order was “women and children” only. The men were not allowed in the lifeboats until all the women and children were gone.

Thomas Andrews, the ship’s builder was last seen in the First Class smoking room staring at a painting, Plymouth Harbour. After staying afloat, at 2:15 AM and the lifeboats were gone. The Titanic began her final plunge and there were was over a thousand people still trapped on the sinking liner. When it became apparent there were no more lifeboats, people began jumping into the icy cold water off the coast of Cape Race, Newfoundland, Canada. The Titanic’s stern rose up into the air and the power that was on the whole time went out. The liner broke apart between the 3rd and 4th funnels due to the pressure of the water in the ship. The stern dropped on the water and then rose up to the sky and sank beneath the ocean.

Of the 2,202 people aboard, about 710 survived. Close to 1,500 people perished and Thomas Andrews was among them. Immediately after the sinking. All shipping companies were required to have enough lifeboats to save all souls aboard. Thomas Andrews’s body was never recovered. In January 1914, a Memorial Hall was opened and named in his honor.


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