The boilers of the Alba, Porthmeor Beach (unexploded bomb for some!)

Janet Axten tells us about the story of the Alba and explain about the wreck left on Porthmeor beach.

The steamer SS Alba on rocks off Porthmeor beach in St Ives. The ship was on route to Barry in Wales from Italy carrying coal when it got into difficulty.
It was on the night of the 31st January 1938 and the motor lifeboat Caroline Parsons was launched. The lifeboat managed to get 23 of the crew off the ship but the boat capsized and was washed onto rocks. Whilst all the lifeboat crew survived (until 1939) 5 of the rescued crew drowned. The boilers of the Alba, Porthmeor Beach.

Alba was seeking shelter from rough seas driven by a northwesterly gale and her captain, Joseph Horvath, guided her into St Ives Bay. He mistook the lights of Porthmeor for the lights of St Ives, and Alba went aground on the Three Brothers Rocks.

All Alba’s 23 crew members were initially rescued on the first run by the local RNLI lifeboat Caroline Parsons, but the lifeboat overturned on its way to shore. With its engine not working, Caroline Parsons was driven ashore. The boilers of the Alba, Porthmeor Beach.

Using torches and lamps rescuers managed to save all the members of the RNLI’s crew, but five of Alba’s crew died. Three bodies were brought ashore and two others were never found.An inquest on the three was held on 2 February 1938, and returned a finding of accidental death. The Times records them as Ernest Stitanovic, first engineer aged 50 from Budapest; Gyulya Szabo, second engineer aged 28 from Tapocla, Hungary; and George Kovacs, mess-room boy aged 26 from Budapest, and notes that “The two missing bodies have not yet been recovered”. Two of the crew, named as engineers Ernest Stipanovi and Gyula Szabo, are commemorated on a plaque in Barnoon cemetery.Several sources incorrectly state that only two of the crew died.

At the inquest it was asserted that the Godrevy Lighthouse shone less brightly since its recent conversion to an unmanned light, the implication being that this might have contributed to the accident.

The wreck of the Alba on Porthmeor Beach, St Ives

The wreck of the Alba on Porthmeor Beach, St Ives


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