First For Women
The Widow & Child of Thomas Andrews
March 1906, Thomas Andrews (nephew of a shipbuilding company businessman) invited Helen “Nellie” Reilly Barbour (the daughter of a linen company businessman) for a drive to the shipyards. There he shocked her with a ring and a marriage proposal. Nellie was so surprised that Thomas was compelled to write her the next day, apologizing for frightening her. She eventually said yes and they were married in June 1908. Two years later, their daughter, Elizabeth Law-Barbour Andrews, was born.
“Further Away from Home Every Hour.”
On April 3rd, 1912, a week before the Titanic’s departure, Thomas said goodbye to his wife and daughter. He wrote to her of his safe arrival, the good weather and how “the ship will clean up all right before sailing on Wednesday.” Two more times he wrote before setting sail — one was Nellie’s birthday; the other when they arrived in Cherbourg. The last she heard from him was April 11th when the ship stopped in Queenstown. Three days after his last letter, Titanic collided with an iceberg and within 2 hours, 40 minutes (of which Thomas had calculated) the ship slipped beneath the surface. He was said to have spoken about his wife and daughter often, telling stewardess Mary Sloan, the only part of Titanic was that it was taking him “further away from home every hour.”
Bravery to Move Onwards
Roughly five years later, in 1917, Nellie married Henry Pierson Harland, of Harland & Wolff (the company that Thomas worked for) and they had four children. In August 1966, Nellie passed away. Thomas and Nellie’s daughter, Elba, grew up to be the first woman in Northern Ireland to receive a pilot’s license, helped the war effort and went to Kenya to work with giraffes. Sadly, much like Captain Smith’s wife and even in the same year, Elba died from a car accident while she was on her way home in Dublin in November 1973.