Andrews, Thomas (1843–1916), politician and linen magnate, was born 26 February 1843 in Comber, Co. Down, fourth and youngest son of John Andrews, JP, and his wife, Sarah, daughter of William Drennan (qv). Educated at the Royal Academical Institution and QCB, in 1863 Andrews began his career in the family business, John Andrews & Co. of Comber, one of the largest mills in the province, and subsequently served as chairman. While regarded as an authority on the linen trade in Ulster, he was always best known as a politician. Having started out a liberal and a keen supporter of Gladstone, he turned to liberal unionism after Gladstone supported home rule. He lectured on unionism on platforms throughout England, and went on to promote the Ulster convention of 1892. That year he became president of the Ulster Liberal Unionist Association, a post he held until his death. He came to be politically associated with fellow liberal unionist Thomas Sinclair (qv), with whom he had regular access to the chief secretary, Gerald Balfour (qv), despite their party's relative insignificance in unionist politics.
He took part in the Ulster Defence Union (1893) and the Ulster Unionist Council, becoming an enthusiastic supporter of the policies of Sir Edward Carson (qv). He served as a member of the ‘recess committee’ convened by Sir Horace Plunkett (qv) in 1895 to examine ways to improve Irish agriculture, the appeal commission under the local government act of 1898, and the arterial drainage commission of Ireland (1905). For many years he was chairman of the Belfast & Down Railway Company, and chairman of Down county council (1902–14). He was appointed an Irish privy councillor (1903), and in 1912 he became high sheriff of Down. He was also an active member of the unitarian church, and frequently spoke at their meetings and annual conferences. He died at his home Ardara, in Comber, on 16 September 1916 and is buried in Comber.
Andrews married (1870) Eliza Pirrie of Little Clandeboye, Co. Down, sister of W. J. Pirrie (qv); they had four sons and one daughter. His eldest son, John Miller Andrews (qv), was prime minister of Northern Ireland 1940–43; his second son, Thomas (qv), managing director of Harland & Wolff, drowned in the Titanic disaster of April 1912.