Designed by the Belfast architectural practice of Young & McKenzie and built by the Courtney & Company of Belfast between 2 October 1913 and 29 January 1915 the hall was officially opened by Thomas Andrews' widow, Helen. The hall was intended to serve as a community hall, but since the 1970s it has been part of the Andrews Memorial Hall. Inside the hall, on the first floor landing, reached by stairs from the hall's entrance hall, is an impressive bronze plaque dedicate to the memory of Thomas Andrews Jr.
Thomas Andrews Jr was from a prominent family in Comber (pronounced Cumber) involved in local politics and business; the Andrews family operated a flax mill in Comber for many decades. The eldest son of Thomas Senior and Eliza (nee Pirrie), John Andrews, would later serve as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland between 1940 and 1943. Their third son, James, was Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland from 1937 to 1951. Thomas, their second son, unlike his brothers went into industry, serving as a premium apprentice at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast.
Thomas Andrews spent five years working in all the departments of the shipyard before finishing his apprenticeship in the drawing office. He became part of the drawing office in November 1892, and after rising through a number of managerial positions reached the position of Managing Director in March 1907, while still maintaining his position as head of the yard's designing department. He was ultimately responsible for some of finest ships built for the White Star Line, including the Oceanic (II), Adriatic (II), Olympic and Titanic. Thomas Andrews would lose his life in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was not identified.
The plaque commemorating him within the Andrews Memorial Hall was designed and sculpted by Rosamond Praeger. Born in County Down, less than ten miles from Comber, amongst Rosamond Praeger's many artistic skills were that of design, illustration, painting and sculpture. She provided two commissions for the Andrews Memorial Hall, the plaque and two the two cherub carvings found in the doorway arch 'spandrels' on the gable-end facade of the hall. The cherubs are playing musical instruments, either side of the inscription 'Thomas Andrews Jr Shipbuilder Memorial Hall'.
The memorial plaque features a circular bas-relief portrait medallion of Thomas Andrews set above a garland. The plaque has a biography and dedication to Thomas Andrews:
This hall was erected and endowed in memory of Thomas Andrews, Junior. By the inhabitants of the town and district of Comber and other friends. Born 7th, February, 1873, at Ardara, Comber. He entered at the age of sixteen years upon his apprenticeship with Harland and Wolff, Ltd. shipbuilders. Through his industry and ability he became successively Work Manager, Head of the Repair Department, and Chief of the Designing Staff, and ultimately in 1902 he was appointed one of the managing directors of the company. He took a prominent part in the designing and construction of all the leviathan ships built by the company between the years 1899 and 1912, including the "Cedric", "Baltic", "Adriatic", "Oceanic", "Amerika", "President Lincoln", "President Grant", "New Amsterdam", "Rotterdam", "Lapland", "Olympic", and "Titanic". He was lost on 15th April 1912, in the foundering of the "Titanic" which collided with an iceberg in mid-Atlantic during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New-York. His manly character and lovable disposition won for him in his brief life the affection and esteem of all who knew him. When with tragic suddenness the call came he died as he lived, faithful to duty and gave his life that others might be saved.
The memorial plaque is a significant Titanic memorial and as such it is listed separately on this website to the Andrews Memorial Hall within which the plaque is located.
- Bullock, Shan F (1912) Thomas Andrews Shipbuilder Dublin/London: Maunsel & Company Ltd
- Department of the Environment (1999) Historic Building Details [HB24/15/036] Belfast: Department of the Environment, http://appsc.doeni.gov.uk/buildings/buildview.aspx?id=3465&js=false
- Graham, Karen and Magee, Ralph (2012) A Titanic Memorial - The Andrews Memorial Hall Comber: Andrews Memorial Primary School
- University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database (2011) 'Sophia Rosamond Praeger HRHA', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951 Glasgow: University of Glasgow, http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib3_1204633850