The men who constructed the world-famous Titanic are now immortialised as the world's greatest shipbuilders.
Sir Edward Harland
Sir Edward Harland was born in 1830 Newborough, Scarborough. His father, Dr. William Harland, MD was mayor of Scarborough three times and as well as being a successful physician, with his own medicinal baths at the bottom of Vernon Place, he had a interest in engineering. His mother, Anne Pierson, was a talented artist who helped her husband with his engineering drawings. Edward often described his house as a hive of industry with 11 children, the boys building model boats and carriages, the girls busy with dolls houses and furnishing them with dresses and furniture, which were all made by themselves.
Aurelius Harland, Edward's older brother, went to Edinburgh to study medicine in 1844, and looked after Edward who was attending Edinburgh Academy. Edward's father had always hoped he would become a lawyer, but Edward insisted on becoming an engineer and at the age of 15, he was apprenticed as a draftsman to Robert Stephenson & Co. in Newcastle. His apprenticeship took five years by which time, he had been responsible for building one side of a Stephenson locomotive, and his drawings were regarded as prize examples. He went to work in Newcastle but soon left to take charge of a shipyard in Belfast to later join partnership with Mr. Wolff where Harland & Wolff shipbuilders was founded.
His company soon dominated the steamship business. He was a technical innovator and an aggressive businessman. His company pioneered the long narrow ships which were commercially successful. In 1867, with Thomas Ismay, he bought the White Star line for the Atlantic trade and supplied the ships. He died in 1895, seventeen years before the Titanic was launched. It could be speculated that had he still been alive, the deadly design faults which resulting in the sinking, might have been corrected.
Gustav Wilhelm Wolff was born in Hamburg on 10 October 1834, the son of Moritz Wolff and Fanny Maria Schwabe. At the age of 14 he left Germany to continue his studies in Liverpool. His father thought that he should enter the profession of engineering, and at the end of his student days he was apprenticed to Messrs.
He soon won the confidence of his employers, and in 1855, before he had completed his 21st year; was chosen to represent the firm at a stand which they had at the Paris Exhibition. Later he was employed as a draughtsman by Messrs Goodfellow and Co., of Hyde, and he went to Belfast to act in a similar capacity for Messrs Hickson and Co., the then owners of the Queen's Island shipping yard. At that time only about 200 people were employed, whereas now there are over 15,000. In 1860 Edward Harland along with Mr. Wolff as manager took over the shipbuilding company. Two years later Mr. Wolff was admitted a partner, and he continued his connection with the firm up to a few years ago.
For 18 years Mr. Wolff represented in the House of Commons the East Division of Belfast in the Conservative and Unionist interest. His only contest was at a by-election in March, 1892, when he first contested the division. On that occasion he was opposed by Sir William Charley, Q.C., who stood as an Independent Conservative, but he beat him by over 2,100 votes. Mr. Wolff was retained unopposed on five occasions, and on his retirement in December, 1910, he was succeeded by Mr. R. J. McMordie.
Mr. Wolff was a generous contributor to the funds of many of the charitable institutions of Belfast, notably the Ulster Hospital for Women and Children, while the Orange and other bodies benefited by his munificence. Mr. Wolff was a bachelor.
Lord William Pirrie
William James Pirrie was born in Quebec, Canada on 31 May 1847 the only son of James Alexander Pirrie his wife Eliza. William Pirrie's family lived at Conlig, County Down.
He studied at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and in 1862 he entered the firm of Harland and Wolff at the age of 15 as an apprentice and by 1874 and went on to become chief draughtsman by the age of 22, made a partner at 27 and was made chairman when he was 30. Pirrie was the first chairman of Harland and Wolff Shipyard. He remained with the firm all his life where he nurtured a close and lucrative working relationship with Thomas Henry Ismay and later his son, Joseph Bruce Ismay who led the White Star Line. Harland and Wolff was the sole constructor for White Star, building its ships to the highest specifications.
At 49 he was Lord Mayor of Belfast from 1896-1897 and was made Baron Pirrie of Belfast in 1906. Lord Pirrie died at sea on 6 June 1924 aged 77 while on a business tour of South America.
Joseph Bruce Ismay
Joseph Bruce Ismay was born at Crosby, near Liverpool on 12 December 1862. He was the eldest son of Thomas Henry Ismay and Margaret Bruce. Thomas Ismay was senior partner in the firm of Ismay, Imrie and company and founder of the White Star Line. The family lived at Dawpool, Cheshire
Thomas was educated at Elstree School and at Harrow. When he left Harrow he was tutored in France for a year before being apprenticed to his father's office for four years. Then after a one year tour of the world he was posted to New York where he worked at the White Star Line office for a further year before being appointed the company agent in New York
In 1888 Thomas married Julia Florence Schieffelin and together they had two sons and two daughters and in 1891 he and his family returned to England. That year he was made a partner in the firm of Ismay, Imrie and company. Joseph's father died in 1899 leaving him head of the business.
Joseph met with Lord Pirrie and together they devised a strategy to see off their competitors, The Cunard and this is when Titanic and the two other grand ships, Olympic and Britannic were conceived. Joseph was on Titanic when the disaster struck. However he survived Titanic but later died a recluse living in Ireland on 17 October 1937 leaving an estate worth £693,305.
7 February, 1873 Thomas Andrews Jr. was born in Belfast, Ireland son to the Right Honorable Thomas Andrews, a local politician, and Eliza Pirrie, who were married in 1870. Thomas had an older brother and they all lived in Ardara, located in Comber, County Down, Ireland. Thomas's mother was the sister of Lord William James Pirrie, the controlling owner of the shipbuilders Harland & Wolff and coincidentally Thomas had a great love and interest in ships, he attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution from 1884 to 1889, when he left at age sixteen to begin his apprenticeship at Harland & Wolff. He spent his whole career at Harland & Wolff, eventually working his way up to head of the drafting shop and managing director. A lot of the design on Titanic and her sister ship, Olympic, was done by the previous director, Alexander Carlisle, but Andrews was responsible for the final fit-out and much of her decor.
On 24 June 1908, Thomas was married to Helen Reilly Barbour, daughter of John D. Barbour, a company director. The couple made their home in Belfast. It is known that he took her to view Titanic one night in 1910, shortly before their daughter Elizabeth was born. Thomas was very instrumental the night Titanic sank - he ensured life jackets were worn and people got into lifeboats however he lost his life that night, as he did not wish to attempt saving himself as it meant taking the place of another. After Thomas's death, Helen was married a second time to Henry Pierson Harland. They had no children and Helen herself died in England in 1966.