A Night to Remember (1958)
February 7th 1873 -- April 15th 1912
Thomas Andrews, Jr. (February 7, 1873 – April 15, 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 April 14, 1912 and was one of the 1,517 people lost in the disaster.
Thomas Andrews Jr., was born at Ardara House, Comber, Northern Ireland on February 7, 1873, a son of the Right Hon. Thomas Andrews and Eliza Pirrie; he was also a nephew of Lord Pirrie , principal owner of Harland & Wolff (the shipbuilders of the Titanic).
In 1884 Andrews entered the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, but at the age of 16 he left school and entered Harland & Wolff shipbuilders as a premium apprentice, gradually working his way up through various departments. He eventually became the managing director of H & W in charge of designing, and was familiar with every detail of the construction of the firm's ships. In 1901 Andrews became a member of the Institution of Naval Architects, and on June 24, 1908 he married Helen Reilly Barbour; two years later a daughter, Elizabeth, reffered to as Elba, was born to the young couple and they lived at "Dunallon", Windsow Avenue, Belfast.
Thomas Andrews made a point of sailing with a team of mechanics on the maiden voyages of the Adriatic , Oceanic and Olympic in order to observe their operation and recommend improvements to future vessels slated to be built by his firm. It was for this very reason that Andrews planned to sail on Titanic 's maiden voyage to America, and the thirty-eight-year-old executive left his wife and daughter in Belfast while he accompanied the vessel first to Southampton and, later, out onto the vast expanse of the North Atlantic. In his final letter to Mrs Andrews he expressed his satisfaction with the new vessel: "The Titanic is now about complete and will I think do the old Firm credit tomorrow when we sail" . Andrews boarded with a complimentary ticket No. 112050.
At sea, Andrews had spent most of the journey making notes and assisting the crew with minor difficulties as they got to know the new ship. Always a popular man on these trips Chief Baker Charles Joughin had even baked Andrews a special loaf of bread.
On the evening of April 14th, as usual, Bedroom Steward Henry Samuel Etches arrived at 6:45 to help Andrews dress for dinner which he usually took with Dr O'Loughlin the ship's surgeon. After dinner Andrews returned to his cabin (A-36 ) to pore over blueprints and collate his notes. Andrews barely noticed the collision and was unaware of any problem until Captain Smith sent a message requesting his immediate presence on the bridge.
Later, Saloon Steward James Johnson described how he saw Andrews and Captain Smith touring the forward part of the ship, they visited the flooding mail room and the squash court which was also quickly filling with water. Back on the bridge Andrews broke the news to Captain Smith that in view of the damage the ship had suffered he did not expect her to stay afloat more than two hours.
During the liner's final hours Andrews wandered the decks encouraging passengers to wear their lifebelts and to make their way to the boats.
Andrews made no attempt to save himself and stood in the smoking room, carefully correcting the clock on the mantle. As he felt the ship break behind him, he pulled out his pocket watch and opened it, gazing at the picture of his lovely family. How he hated himself for making her a widow to his wife. It was at that moment when the glass windows finally gave. With a tremendous crash the water slammed into the room, spraying him with water.
He had to hold onto the mantle to keep himself upright. He felt the broken glass as it cut his coat, and he took a deep breath as the room went under. This was it….he wondered what would come next. Kissing his wife's picture, he closed his eyes, trying to make his peace. A giant suction swept Andrews against the mantle and knocking him unconscious. The water competely flooded the smoking room and that was the last known of him. The ship sank just one minute later. His body was never recovered.
Whatever he was thinking in those last moments were, the phrase which echoed back was “heroic until death.” Those were the words used by his cousin, James Montgomery when he telegrammed back to the Andrews family from New York with the news of his loss.
Was Andrews the hero that history has portrayed him as? His great nephew, John, often remarks that at 39 he had not yet had time to make his mistakes. In a world that needs heroes to define right and wrong, Thomas Andrews has been given the role whether it is wholly true or not. There is certainly no evidence to suggest anything other than strength of character and an adherence to the Andrews family motto, “Always Faithful”
There are memorials and reminders of Thomas Andrews which can be visited today. In his home town of Comber, a primary school has been named in his honour. Two years after his death, a memorial hall was erected across the road from the family mill. His young daughter attended the opening ceremony. Today, the hall has just undergone a restoration and is used as part of the school and as a community facility. The Andrews name is also the first on the role of honour at the Titanic Memorial at Belfast City Hall and on the Engineers’ Memorial in Southampton, England. There is also a brass plaque dedicated to him at the Ulster Reform Club in Royal Avenue in Belfast. At his old school, the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, the Belfast Titanic Society and the Andrews family have arranged for the restoration of a plaque commemorating Andrews and Titanic’s second class surgeon, Dr John Edward Simpson.