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Johnny Andrews: It is our family tradition to have financial stability

By Margaret Canning

Published 28/07/2015

Johnny Andrews, finance director with retailer Clattering Ford, and Belfast Telegraph business editor Margaret Canning at Deanes in Belfast
Johnny Andrews, finance director with retailer Clattering Ford, and Belfast Telegraph business editor Margaret Canning at Deanes in Belfast

His family history is intrinsically linked with Belfast's industry and the Titanic story - and with his passion for business and the economy, Johnny Andrews makes for an ebullient lunch companion.

The chartered accountant is the finance director of retailer Clattering Ford, which sells clothing made of linen and other fabrics from a shop in his native Comber, and a website.

His great-great uncle Thomas was the architect of the Titanic, and was among the 1,517 to lose their lives when the supposedly-unsinkable liner went down.

As it's the end of June with Wimbledon getting into full swing, it seems right to plump for some summery flavours - a Caesar salad to start for me, while Johnny chooses a beef carpaccio.

Then great minds think alike and we both plump for the crab risotto in starter size.

It's hard to meet a descendant of such an illustrious yet tragic figure as Thomas Andrews without bringing up the connection - and thankfully, Johnny is at ease with the subject. But there was a time when it wasn't a welcome topic at the family dinner table.

"It was a tragedy as a child because we were not allowed to talk about it because Harland & Wolff was still making ships. I remember my first time seeing A Night To Remember (a 1958 feature film of the tragedy) and when you see that and realise your uncle was there, it's quite hard to deal with."

He is also involved in politics as the Conservative Party's economy spokesman in Northern Ireland, running in the constituency of Strangford in the recent general election.

There's a comical moment when we arrive in Deanes to be met by waiter Ben Manton - who also ran for the Conservative Party in south Belfast. Honestly, you wait all day for a Conservative Party candidate, and two come along at once ...

With Johnny there's frustration with the slowness - or non-existence - of progress in Stormont and its potential impact on the economy. "We need to create a dynamic private sector that will be dynamic in exports. That really is the better way to create jobs."

Politics runs in the family as Johnny's uncle Jack Andrews was a Minister in Northern Ireland in the 1960s while Thomas Andrews' older brother John became Prime Minister. In fact, the young Jack was at the launch of the Titanic and removed the wedges from the ill-fated ship.

The Andrews family formerly operated a linen spinning mill in Comber, and while that is now an apartment complex after closing in the 1990s, Johnny has kept the tradition alive into a sixth generation by selling linen products in his shop. And he'll often dress in linen himself, praising the fabric's superior ability to hold colour.

Financial prudence is a big part of the family tradition. "It's always been in the family tradition that financial stability has to come first as you never know what's round the corner. My great-grandfather borrowed money in 1900 to modernise and later got a letter from his younger brother congratulating him when he repaid it."

He is enthusiastic and charming and praises the crab risotto main as "just so light and with so much flavour". He also rhapsodises about the beef carpaccio starter, "an amazing complement of flavours".

The Bill at Deanes, Belfast

Margaret had: Diet Coke:...............................£2.20

Caesar salad:..................................................£6.50

Risotto:.........................................................£7.00

Americano:....................................................£2.20

Johnny had:

Glass of sauvignon blanc:..............................£5.50

Carpaccio: ...................................................£7.00

Risotto:.........................................................£7.00

Espresso:.......................................................£2.20

Total:............................................................£39.60

Belfast Telegraph

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