Margie Brown was cleaning out an old shed at the back of her property when she uncovered a small child’s handprint sealed with a date from 1954.
- A child’s handprint, dated in 1954, was uncovered in a country shed and linked to Ian Redman
- The story generated huge interest and through community input it has since been revealed Ian Redman died in a tragic car accident when he was 20
- Ian Redman’s sister is pleased to see her brother’s life remembered decades later
The discovery started a chain of events that has brought into focus the life of that child, 66 years on.
Curious, Ms Brown showed the mysterious little imprint to her friend, Janine Roberts, who investigated and discovered the handprint was left by Ian Redman, aged two at the time.
Ms Roberts also found that Ian died aged 20, in the town of Wingham where he grew up on the New South Wales Mid North Coast, but did not know why.
A story published recently by the ABC about the handprint’s discovery, prompted many questions from audiences keen to know what happened to Ian.
Fortunately, it was also seen by friends of Ian’s family.
“Then we made contact with his sister, Susan, who lives in Canberra, and Christine, who was Ian’s girlfriend at the time he died.”
Two ‘tragic’ family deaths
Ms Roberts said it was a very poignant story that began with Ian’s parents.
“Claire and David Redman, after trying unsuccessfully to have children, adopted Ian, and later also adopted Susan, who was younger,” she said.
“The Redmans were well loved and involved in Rotary and the Country Women’s Association.”
Ms Roberts said David Redman died suddenly in 1970 when he was 50, after suffering a heart attack during a Rotary meeting.
“Ian left Wingham after that and was working in Sydney,” she said.
“He would come back to Wingham most weekends to see his mum and Susan.”
It was during one of Ian’s weekend Wingham visits, in July 1973 when he was 20, that tragedy struck.
“Ian caught up with some friends one Saturday and had a relatively new car and wanted to show his friends his car,” Ms Roberts said.
“Ian hit his head on the steering wheel and drowned.”
Ms Roberts said Ian was driving with a friend at the time, who survived the accident.
“His friend was able to escape,” she said.
Struggling after losing her husband and son in such close succession, Claire Redman left the Wingham area and moved with her daughter, Susan, to Canberra, to be closer to family.
‘One little handprint’ triggers happy memories
Ms Roberts said at first she was worried the handprint’s discovery might have distressed the Redman family.
“When it turned out to be such a tragic ending I was really worried it might have upset the family,” she said.
“Also, it’s been a nice time for Christine and Susan to reminisce about their family and the people they loved, so I’m glad it’s brought happiness to the family.”
Susan Redman said she had enjoyed reflecting on her childhood and chatting about the story.
She said it had eased her sense of isolation during COVID-19 restrictions.
“The amount of people who have taken an interest has really blown me away, it’s just amazing.”
‘They gave us a good life’
Ms Redman said she and Ian were well loved by their parents.
“Mum was a stay-at-home mum and she was everything you could want in a mother, and a wonderful cook, and dad was the breadwinner,” she said.
“Ian was a loving brother and used to look after me.”
Ms Redman said her parents also often looked after other children and it highlighted how lucky she and Ian were.
“There used to be an old children’s home at Taree for kids aged up to eight, and we used to take kids in the school holidays all the time at our house,” she said.
“The sad part was when you went in the get the kids, all these little kids would come running up and say, ‘Please take me, please take me’ and I used to be in tears and say to mum, ‘Can’t we take them all?’
Ms Redman said her mother would have been delighted by her son’s tiny handprint being found and generating so much attention.
“Mum, who only passed away last year in her 90s, would think the handprint’s discovery was wonderful,” she said.
“She would just be amazed to think that that one little handprint, all those years ago, has done all this.”