The Life and Works of Thomas Andrews the Designer of Titanic
Before the Titanic was a marvel to the world, the majestic ocean liner was no more than
an idea in the minds of Harand and Wolff director Lord Pirrie and White Star Line president J. Bruce Ismay (Green 1). To be the greatest passenger ship in the world the Titanic had to be larger, faster, and more luxurious than any ship the company had built previously. These men could not build the ship they had envisioned by themselves. The designs and construction of each detail of the majestic ship were overseen by the company’s managing director and chief of
design, Thomas Andrews (Davenport-Hines 51).
Andrews is at the center of the fateful story of the RMS Titanic because he was the
greatest shipbuilder in the world and he could be seen in each aspect of the world’s greatest ship. He was the perfect man for building a ship that would capture the gaze of the entire world. Andrews, the nephew of Harland and Wolff chairman Lord Pirrie, had worked with the shipbuilding company since he was only sixteen years old (51). At age thirty-two, the innovative Andrews had become the head of the company’s blueprints and construction. He knew just how to improve on the design of the Titanic’s sister ship Olympia to offset the imposing size of the Titanic. Andrews’ equipped his masterpiece with triple-screw propulsion, eight electric cargo cranes, and sixteen watertight compartments in the lower levels. Because of Thomas Andrews, the Titanic was a marvel of early twentieth century engineering.
Andrews brilliance was not only theoretical. In his twenty-three years of experience in
the industry, he had become a master of every trade incorporated in shipbuilding. Although he held a nonmanual position, he was often out with the laborers overseeing the physical construction of his years of planning (Brewster 64). The large-framed Andrews was fearless to work in the rough shipyard in Belfast, Ireland (Davenport-Hines 51). Workers in the shipyard claimed that he would “intervene in fights between the workers” and on several occasions actually saved the life of his workers (55). Andrews also made sure to make the personal quarters
of the stewards and sailors who served on the Titanic much larger and more comfortable than the ships of that era (Brewster 64). His hands-on approach, his unshakable spirit, and his love for everyday people made him immensely popular among the construction crews and White Star Line; his dynamic personality created a synergy among each facet of the Titanic’s planning and construction. Thomas Andrews ensured it was the most well-constructed vessel in the history of
Andrew’s sense of responsibility for the quality of his work and the safety of his ship’s crew and passengers did not diminish when the Titanic was launched. He likely would not have missed her maiden voyage for any reason. Throughout the night of the sinking, he was scurrying around the ship to inspect the damage to the hull, attempting to keep passengers and crew calm in the midst of chaos, and urging women and children into lifeboats (Lord 25, 50, 53). Beneath his poise and control lied a deep sense of burden and responsibility for the failure of the ship and the great loss of life which ensued with it. As he contemplated the damage caused by the collision with the iceberg, passenger Mary Sloan observed that Andrews had been shaken to the core of his spirit by the events of the night (Brewster 171). In Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember”, Andrews is last depicted silently and completely withdrawn into his own thoughts (Lord 75). After doing all he could, his masterpiece was still being overcome by the unforgiving nature of the world.
Thomas Andrews led a fascinating life. His greatest achievement immortalized his name in the world’s history; yet, at the moment of his death, he likely viewed it as a tragic failure. Andrews had poured over every rivet in the world famous ocean liner, and would have undoubtedly continued improving it if he had infinite time and money. Without his brilliance, tenacity, and leadership, the Titanic not have been romanticized for the last century. His entire life was spent preparing the way for the most majestic cruise liner to ever sail to be brought into
existence. Although his life culminated in great tragedy, his unremitting work will always be
admired as long as humanity remembers the story.