Born in Comber, County Down in 1873 Thomas Andrews arrived into a prestigious family. The Andrews were titans of the thriving linen industry of Northern Ireland. Andrew’s uncle, Lord Pirrie, was the chairman of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding company and it was from Lord Pirrie that Thomas’ fascination with liners began.
Thomas left school at the age of 16 to begin his apprenticeship at the Harland and Wollf shipyard. Although he came from a wealthy family and his uncle was the chairman, he had to pitch in and work just as hard as the other lads. By night, Thomas attended the Belfast College of Technology studying technical design. He was a remarkably bright young man, and before long he rose steadily through the ranks to become Managing Director of Harland and Wolff.
In 1907 the decision to build three ships grander than any the world had seen before was made by White Star Line. The three Olympic Class Liners were named Olympic, Britannic and the grandest of them all, Titanic. Thomas Andrews was chief designer of all three.
The Guarantee Group
Thomas was also chief among the Guarantee Group. This group was made up of the brightest and best from the Harland and Wolff Company. It was the Guarantee Group’s duty to travel on the maiden journey of Titanic to chart down any improvements or corrections that could be made as well as taking records of the ship’s workings.
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Wooden chairs and icy waters
On that fateful night in April 1912 it was Thomas Andrews who calculated Titanic’s doom and told Captain Smith they had a mere two hours left before Titanic would be at the bottom of the ocean. Accounts of Thomas’ last moments on Titanic vary, but one thing they all have in common is that he helped others, kept crew and passengers alike calm and heroically flung wooden chairs into the icy waters, saving many lives.
Thomas went down with the ship that was his crowing glory, his body was never recovered but tales of his grace, intellect and bravery live on.
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