Thomas Andrew, one of the principal architects of RMS Titanic and head of the Guarantee Group, was born in 1873 to a distinguished and well-connected Ulster family. His uncle, Lord Pirrie was the chairman of the shipbuilding firm Harland & Wolff.
In 1889, at the age of 16, he left school to become an apprentice in his uncle’s shipyard. Working in the shipyard by day and taking evening classes in mechanics and naval architecture by night, he learned quickly and rose through the ranks. By 1907 he had become the managing director of the design department and was deeply involved in the construction of Titanic and her sister ships. Despite the family connections that guided his prodigious career, Andrews was regarded as a highly competent manager and ship-builder.
As leader of the Guarantee Group, Andrews was an active and exacting inspector. He reportedly carried a notebook with him everywhere he went, and frequently consulted the ship’s plans. He was even in the habit of checking the ovens in the Titanic’s four kitchens for any defects.When Titanic struck the iceberg on April 14, 1912, Captain Smith consulted with Thomas Andrews, the most knowledgeable person on board, to learn the ship’s fate. Thomas toured the ship and calculated that the ship would sink in less than two hours. Reports of Thomas’ final moments are varied. He was seen handing out lifejackets, helping with lifeboats, and throwing deckchairs in the water to be used as floatation devices. He reportedly was last seen in the first-class smoking room, pondering the ship that he designed.
He was 39 years old and was survived by his wife, Helen Reilly Barbour, and their daughter, Elizabeth.