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Sir James Andrews (1877 - 1851):
Barrister; judge

Sir James Andrews, scion of a highly distinguished Ulster family, was a long-serving Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland..

A son of the Rt Hon Thomas Andrews and Elizabeth Pirrie, of “Ardtara”, Comber, County Down, James Andrews was a member of a leading Ulster political and industrial family. His father was the leader of the Ulster Liberal Party and became a liberal unionist when the Liberal party split over Home Rule; one brother was John Millar Andrews, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland (1940-43), another brother was Thomas Andrews, designer of the outstanding but ill-fated Titanic, who was drowned when it was lost. An uncle was the Rt Hon Mr Justice William Drennan Andrews, a judge of the Irish High Court (1882-1907).

James Andrews was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI), and then at Stephen’s Green School, Dublin, from where he proceeded to Trinity College, Dublin, where he had an outstanding undergraduate career, graduating with first class honours in Logic, Ethics and Modern Literature, having been Auditor and Gold Medallist of the College Historical Society (“The Hist”, one of Trinity’s two main debating societies).

Andrews was called to the Irish Bar by King’s Inns in 1900, and joined the North East Circuit. Given his family connections with linen and shipbuilding in the North East of Ireland, and his ability, it was not surprising that he rapidly built up a lucrative civil and commercial practice at the Irish Bar, becoming a KC in 1918 and a bencher of King’s Inns in 1920.

Despite being only 44 and a silk (KC) of less than four years’ standing, Andrews was appointed the junior of the two Lord Justices of Appeal in the new Northern Ireland Court of Appeal on 17 October, 1921, commencing a judicial career which would last almost 30 years. Following the retirement of Sir William Moore as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland on 1 December, 1937, Andrews was appointed to that office on that same day, serving until his death on 18 February, 1951.

Sir Edward Jones, himself a Lord Justice of Appeal, claimed in his autobiography that Andrews’ appointment as Lord Chief Justice only came about after a major trial of strength between his brother, then deputy Prime Minister, and the supporters of the Attorney-general Sir Anthony Babington, when the Andrews family influence ultimately prevailed with the Prime Minster, Viscount Craigavon, Babington becoming a Lord Justice of Appeal in Andrews’ place.

Following the sudden death of Sir Denis Henry LCJ, Andrews moved rapidly to make the necessary arrangements with the Council of Legal Education in London to put in place a new system for the training of barristers when the Northern judiciary and Bar severed their relationship with King’s Inns in Dublin, a system which stood the test of time for almost half a century.

Lord MacDermott, Andrews’ successor as Lord Chief Justice, described him as having a firm grasp of legal principles, alert intelligence, and a marked capacity for taking pains to master the facts of a case, making him a competent and business-like judge, and one whose patience and care were matched by a courtesy which was the same for all. Andrews was made a baronet in 1942.

Off the bench Andrews, who had been an enterprising batsman in his youth, was a keen supporter of cricket, notably in his native Comber, as well as being a regular sailor on Strangford Lough. He was active on the Senate of Queen’s University and served as Senior Pro-Chancellor of the University. Dublin University awarded him an honorary LLD in 1938.

In 1922 he married Jane Lawson Haselden, whose sister married his elder brother, J M Andrews. There were no children of the marriage and the baronetcy became extinct upon his death.

Born: 3 January 1877
Died: 18 February 1851
AR Hart

Kenneth Ferguson (ed): King’s Inns Barristers 1868-2004; FE Ball: Judges in Ireland 1221-1921; AR Hart: A History of the Bar and Inn of Court of Northern Ireland; ODNB; DIB; Sir Edward Jones: Jones LJ His life and times