Andrews, Francis (1718–74), provost of TCD and MP, was born, allegedly, in Derry jail. Gossips claimed that his father, Alexander Andrews, was imprisoned as a debtor, though he had apparently owned property in Co. Antrim; in later years Francis Andrews possessed lands in the parish of Derrykeighan, Co. Antrim. His uncle, presumably on the maternal side, was John Averill, who, thanks to Francis Andrews's influence, was to become bishop of Limerick (1770–71). Shortly after the death of Alexander Andrews, which occurred when his son was two, Mrs Andrews married a Mr Tomkins, who was related to – if not identical with – George Tomkins (d. 1739), MP for Derry city. Tomkins so successfully looked after Andrews's inheritance that the young man was able to take his place in society as a gentleman's son. Francis Andrews was educated at Derry by Roger Blackall, and entered TCD on 23 April 1733. He graduated BA in 1737 and MA in 1740, and in that year won a fellowship in the college. In 1743 he took the degree of LLB, and in 1745 an LLD. His interest in law led to his entering the Middle Temple in London on 19 November 1741, and he practised at the Irish bar from 1746. His fellowship seems not to have interfered with lucrative legal employment or with travels on the Continent; Andrews was very popular among the young men of his own age who were sojourning in Rome while on the grand tour. He also impressed professors in Padua with his knowledge of Latin and classical authors (he had been awarded TCD's Berkeley medal in 1738 for proficiency in Greek). Though he was the first holder of the chair of modern history, from 1762, he was not particularly noted for scholarship.
After eighteen years as a fellow, but without having suffered too much of the tedium of either teaching or administration, Andrews managed to be in the right place at the right time – in London, rather than in Dublin, on 30 September 1758, when the provost of the college, Richard Baldwin (qv), died. On 11 October 1758 the king appointed Andrews the new provost, at the same time dispensing with the usual requirement that the provost be in holy orders. Andrews's friendships with the lord lieutenant, John Russell (qv), 4th duke of Bedford, and Richard Rigby (qv), the chief secretary, and (according to gossip) lobbying by Peg Woffington (qv) seem to have assisted his promotion. Rumour said that Woffington was either an old flame of Andrews, or had received £5,000 for her help, or both; at all events, Andrews took up office on 8 November 1758.
It is hard to decide whether Andrews owed the provostship to his political connections, or whether his parliamentary career was based on his being provost. In both aspects of his career his popularity and good sense were commented on; contemporary descriptions make it clear that he was the very model of an Augustan gentleman, fond of society and elegantly accomplished, as well as a noted bon viveur. Andrews was elected in 1759 to represent Midleton, Co. Cork, and immediately made a mark in parliament; he served on twenty-seven committees that year, and was returned unopposed for Derry city in 1761. He was returned for Derry again in 1768 and 1774, and was a noted debater and public figure; he served as governor of Dr Steevens’ Hospital, of Erasmus Smith's school, of the Blue-Coat Hospital, and of the Workhouse and Foundling Hospital. He was also a trustee of the linen board for Leinster, and was a privy counsellor from 1761.
Andrews, as a man of affairs and with a good deal of experience in legal and property matters, was able to capitalise so efficiently on Provost Baldwin's legacies to the college that new professorships of divinity, of Greek, and of feudal and English law were established in 1761. His influence in the Erasmus Smith trust led to increased funds for the college, which allowed the establishment (1762) of professorships of mathematics and oriental tongues, the latter later known as the professorship of Hebrew, and the creation of a new chair of modern history, separated from the existing chair of oratory and history. The chair of music was established at Andrews's behest (1764); its first incumbent was Garrett Wesley (qv), earl of Mornington. Andrews's love of music led also to the establishment in 1762 of the first formal choir and choral service in the college chapel. By his will, a professorship of astronomy was to be financed by charges on his Antrim estates, and he also bequeathed £3,000 to build an astronomical observatory at Dunsink. He instituted reforms in the college entrance examinations, probably arranged for the introduction of Euclidean geometry to the undergraduate syllabus when the chair of mathematics was established, and generally maintained discipline in a relaxed and affable manner.
Andrews's connections in public life assisted his other equally durable contributions to the college; the Irish parliament in the late 1750s provided £45,000 to Trinity, to finance the building of the notable West Front and other parts of Front Square (then known as Parliament Square, to honour parliament's generosity). The dining hall was completed in Andrews's time, and he was responsible also for replacing the Provost's House; its design and splendid decoration owe much to his taste and to his liking for lavish and impressive entertainments. His mother, who survived him, and her adopted daughter, Mrs Gamble, acted as his hostesses in the Provost's House, as he never married, though noted for his gallantries. The celebrated beauty ‘Dolly’ (Dorothea) Monroe from Co. Down was one of his particular favourites, though very much his junior. When a newspaper reported inaccurately that he and the young lady were to marry, Andrews's rival for Dolly's affections, George Townshend (qv), 1st Marquis Townshend, the viceroy, wrote him a humorous poem on the occasion. A great deal of other gossip about Andrews amused Dublin society, but when news of his death reached Dublin, he was sincerely mourned. Richard Rigby is said to have wept like a child when he heard of it. Andrews had been travelling for the sake of his health in Italy, and died of fever, or of a stroke, at Shrewsbury, England, on 12 June 1774 on his way home. His body was brought back to be buried in the vaults of the chapel in TCD. There is a portrait in the college.
After his death, disputes between the college and his executors and heirs were exacerbated by concern about whether all or some of Andrews's dealings with college landed property had been strictly legal. His adopted sister and her husband, William Gamble (d. 1779), who, thanks to Andrews’s influence, was MP for Ballyshannon 1769–76, were eventually obliged to surrender assets to the college. The establishment of the Andrews professorship of astronomy was thus delayed until 1785, after a parliamentary committee in 1780 had examined the evidence.