Ian Redman left a handprint in his family shed in 1954. This is his tragic story

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.

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.”

A small child's handprint in a concrete slab, with a date marked in 1954.
It is believed this handprint was left in 1954 by Ian David Redman.(ABC News: Emma Siossian)

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.”

A black and white image of a small boy standing in a rain coat in a garden.
Ian Redman around the age he made his handprint.(Supplied: Janine Roberts)

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.”

A low lying bridge over a river, with trees and a field in the background.
Ian Redman died in 1973 when his car crashed and drove off the Bight Bridge in Wingham.(Supplied: Janine Roberts)

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.

A black and white photo of a mother and father with a boy and girl, dressed in formal clothing.
A family portrait of the Redman family taken in 1961.(Supplied: Susan Redman)

“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.

A young man in the 1970s with long brown hair and jeans and a jumper.
Ian Redman, aged 19.(Supplied: Christine Gearie)

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.”

A mother stands with her arms around a young boy and young girl, in the 1950s.
Claire Redman with Ian and Susan at home at Wingham in the 1950s.(Supplied: Susan Redman)

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.”

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