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How chance encounter led to discovery of IFA HQ link to doomed Titanic designer

By Steven Beacom

Published 29/01/2016

Thomas Andrews
Thomas Andrews
The old IFA HQ, former home of Titanic designer Thomas Andrews
William Campbell

The Irish Football Association have revealed how it discovered its connection with Thomas Andrews, the designer of the Titanic.

Today it is well-known that 20 Windsor Avenue in Belfast, which has been the IFA's headquarters since 1960, was where the designer of the world's most famous ship lived before setting sail from Southampton in 1912 on the vessel, which never reached its New York destination.

For years, however, nobody knew the link existed.

When Andrews, his wife Helen and daughter Elba lived in and rented the property, it was number 12 Windsor Avenue.

The house number would change several times over the next 100 years, with 20 now its established address.

The IFA has put the building up for sale for £1.1m, and is leaving it today for its new offices at the refurbished Windsor Park.

The longest-serving member of the current IFA staff, William Campbell, head of the chief executive's office, remembers how the connection between Andrews and the historic building was made.

"It wasn't until relatively recently that the Titanic connections were identified," he explained.

"A blue plaque for Thomas Andrews was going to be put on a building further down Windsor Avenue, but a newspaper story revealed that the ceremony was going to be cancelled when a picture of Thomas Andrews, his wife and child was found with them outside what was a different building."

Before that happened, an elderly lady visited the IFA and spoke to Mr Campbell, explaining that she wanted to see the house she had grown up in.

"When she was leaving, she said in an off-the-cuff remark that her father had bought the house from the man who built the Titanic," Mr Campbell said.

"That wasn't totally correct, but it was an interesting link. David Bowen, the then-IFA general secretary, was interested in the Titanic and so when the story of the blue plaque came up we made contact with the Belfast City Council to tell them we may have found a solution."

The Titanic Society visited Windsor Avenue and through deeds of the building it became apparent that the name of the house was Dunallan, and that letters to Thomas Andrews were sent to that address

"It was from the house that he left to go on the Titanic in 1912," Mr Campbell added.

Andrews went down with the ship on Titanic's doomed maiden voyage.

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