Andrews, Thomas (1873–1912), shipbuilder, was born 7 February 1873 at Ardara, Comber, Co. Down, where his family, members of the non-subscribing presbyterian church, had been prominent in business for several generations. He was the second son of Thomas Andrews (1843–1916), for many years chairman of the Belfast & Co. Down Railway and president of the Ulster Liberal Unionist Association, as well as a partner in John Andrews & Co., flax-spinners, and his wife Eliza (d. 1929), sister of William James Pirrie, Viscount Pirrie (qv), chairman of the Belfast shipbuilders, Harland & Wolff. He was a brother of Sir James Andrews (qv) and John Miller Andrews (qv). The young Thomas Andrews showed a keen interest in boats, having the opportunity to sail nearby on Strangford Lough; later he was a noted yachtsman, becoming known in yachting circles as ‘the Admiral’. He attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution until the age of 16 when he began a premium apprenticeship at the Harland & Wolff shipyard. Self-disciplined, he rose at 4.50 each morning to arrive at work by 6 and devoted his evenings to further study; after qualifying as an engineer he remained enthusiastic, painstaking and an ascetic but popular figure. In 1901 he became a member of the Institution of Naval Architects, in 1902 of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers; soon he was chief designer (1903) and managing director (1907) of Harland & Wolff. Andrews's career coincided with the firm's heyday, when it was building a fleet of transatlantic liners for the White Star Line. He was not, however, a principal in Harland & Wolff, nor had he a share in the company.
In 1912 he set out on the maiden voyage of one such ship, Titanic, the last word in size, comfort, and safety. When, on the night of 14–15 April, she struck an iceberg off Newfoundland, Andrews immediately inspected the damage. Knowing, better than any one else, that the ship was doomed, he counselled against panic and assisted the crew. Last seen throwing deckchairs overboard, he perished with the ship when it went down some hours later. Throughout the prolonged controversy over the loss of Titanic, Andrews's reputation remained ‘uncontrovertible and undented’ (Davie, Titanic, 216).
Thomas Andrews married (26 June 1908) Helen Reilly Barbour (1881–1966), whose father, John Doherty Barbour (1823–1901) of Dunmurry, Co. Antrim, was prominent in the linen industry. Her brother, Sir (John) Milne Barbour (qv), was deputy prime minister of Northern Ireland. The couple lived at 12 Windsor Avenue, Belfast, and had one child, Elizabeth Law Barbour (1910–73), who lived for some years in Kenya.