On this day in history : 7th February 1873 – The birth of Thomas Andrews – the naval architect in charge of overseeing the plans for the supposedly unsinkable RMS Titanic….
Andrews was born in Comber, near to Belfast, into a prominent family…. His father was the Right Hon. Thomas Andrews and his mother Eliza Pirrie…. His brother, John, was later to become Prime Minister of Northern Ireland…. Andrews’ uncle was Lord Pirrie, owner of Harland & Wolff, who were to build the Titanic….
Andrews joined Harland & Wolff in 1889, at the age of 16, as an apprentice….and spent the next five years working his way through the various departments of the company…. He was hardworking and well liked; he progressed quickly and in 1901 he became a member of the Institution of Naval Architects…. By 1907 he had been made Managing Director of Harland & Wolff, in charge of design and construction….
Andrews married Helen Reilly Barbour on the 24th of June 1908 and the couple were blessed with a daughter, Elizabeth, two years later….
Always wanting to be involved Andrews sailed on the maiden voyages of the Adriatic, Oceonic and Olympic – to oversee, observe and learn…. He was always looking for ways to improve things…. So, this is how he happened to be on the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic….
Leaving his wife and daughter behind in Belfast he boarded Titanic with his complimentary ticket No. 112050 and settled into cabin No. A36…. The ship sailed to Southampton on the 10th of April 1912 – and then on to the North Atlantic…. Andrews spent the first few days assisting where he was needed, helping the crew familiarise themselves with the new vessel – and making notes as to what could be done to make things better for future voyages….
On the evening of the 14th of April 1912 Andrews returned to his cabin after dinner and became engrossed in catching up with some work…. So absorbed was he that when the ship collided with the iceberg at approximately 23.40pm he hardly even noticed….and thought little of it…. His first hint of the danger they were in came when a message arrived to say his presence was immediately required on the Bridge….
He and 62-year-old Captain Smith, the White Star Line’s most senior captain, assessed the damage in the flooded mail room and squash court…. The design of the ship involved sixteen watertight compartments, with doors which could be closed from the Bridge, sealing off compartments if necessary…. Up to 4 compartments could flood at any one time and the ship would remain upright…. It was the safety design that led White Star to claim their vessels were practically unsinkable….
Despite this, Andrews had to break the news to Captain Smith that he did not think the Titanic would stay afloat for more then two hours…. Andrews spent his last hours urging passengers to the lifeboats…. The Titanic sank at around 2.20am on the 15th of April 1912…. The body of Andrews was never recovered….