Bride Battles Back from Heartbreak after Husband’s Honeymoon Shark Attack Death
27 May 2015
Inspirational Gemma Redmond has battled back from the heartbreak of being widowed on her honeymoon. Paul MacKenzie reports
It should have been the happiest time of Gemma Redmond’s life. She was relaxing on the sun-kissed shore of a paradise island while her new husband snorkelled in the shallow cobalt blue waters just a few metres away.
Photography by John Cocks
The couple had married just 10 days before and the house they had spent two years lovingly renovating was waiting for them when they returned from their honeymoon in the Seychelles. But the romantic idyll was shattered, and 27-year-old Gemma’s life turned upside-down, when Ian was attacked by a bull shark and died on the white sands of Anse Lazio beach. His funeral was held at St Michael’s and All Angels church in Dalton near Appley Bridge, where just three weeks earlier family and friends had gathered to celebrate the couple’s wedding.
Now, three-and-a-half years on from the tragedy and, while still shattered by her loss, Gemma has shown incredible strength and fortitude in beginning the difficult task of re-building her life. She lives in the cottage in Roby Mill which they worked so hard on together and has given up her job teaching in a Skelmersdale Primary School to launch a vintage jewellery business which helps other brides look the part on their big day.
“It was a very hard time for me, the hardest time anyone could ever have,” says Gemma. “But I am coming out of the dark now. I have had a lot of good support from my friends and parents. I wanted to take something positive from something so negative and I know Ian would appreciate what I am doing. He would say ‘go for it’.
“My initial plan was to run the business in my spare time, but as a primary school teacher you don’t have a lot of spare time. Last May I decided it would be viable to leave teaching and set up the business. I have always wanted to be my own boss, even as a little girl. I used to set up a stall on my mum and dad’s driveway selling feathers. No-one ever bought anything because we were on a 60mph road and people just whizzed past so I didn’t do very well then but hopefully this will be better.”
Gemma and Ian
Gemma and Ian met when she began her history degree at Manchester University. She moved in to the same halls of residence where final year computer science student Ian was living and they went on their first date just a couple of weeks later.
They bought their house – a terrace cottage in need of much renovation – in 2009 and transformed it into a stylish and cosy love nest. They planned to move in on their wedding night, in August 2011 but Ian only got to spend two nights there.
Ian, a software developer from Nelson, was a keen climber and boulderer and after their wedding reception at Hoghton Tower the couple were looking forward to an exotic adventure in the Seychelles, unaware that a French tourist had died in a shark attack shortly before they jetted out.
“Ian’s accident happened completely out of the blue,” Gemma said. “We had no idea there had been previous incidents and we had no warnings. We were in a place where hundreds of other people were swimming and playing in the sea and Ian was just twenty metres from the beach. Other people were snorkelling and there were boats around.
“I remember shouting ‘we’ve just got married’, as if someone would say ‘oh, okay then, we’ll rewind what just happened.’ There are a few theories about why it happened but we have no idea, really, and however much you analyse it, it’s not going to bring him back. I have tried to see it as an accident. Unexplainable things happen and unfortunately on this occasion we were on the receiving end.
“Ian was very safety conscious and he never took unnecessary risks. I always thought he would know what to do in a crisis and would stay calm and that’s what I have tried to do. I have made an effort to take a leaf out of his book and to focus on the here and now.
“What has happened has taught me that you can’t always plan, you have to live each day as it comes and enjoy the moment. I have lots of happy memories and Ian would have hated the impact his loss has had on everyone, the domino effect it caused. But it had already claimed one life and I didn’t want it to claim another. I hope I can give people a glimmer of hope and show that life does go on for those left behind and that you can have positive times. I have had some terrible times and I needed to do things that gave me comfort. For me, there are no better tonics than fashion and history.”
Those twin loves have inspired her new business, Gemma Redmond Vintage. She uses the skills she learned on her degree course to research the history of each piece she buys at antiques fairs and auctions across the country.
Her first vintage piece was a bag but her passion was really sparked when she bought a pair of Kramer earrings on a trip to New York with her parents. Back at home she researched the company and began to collect more pieces before starting to sell, initially to friends.
“I have always loved fashion, and particularly jewellery, since I was a young girl,” Gemma said. “I love vintage pieces because they have more of a story to them. And as much as I loved teaching – and there’s no entertainment like four and five year olds can provide – I needed to do something for myself.
“I think it’s nice to see the pieces appreciated by other people and for other people to like them as much as I do. I find that really rewarding. I try to buy pieces that are a bit different, pieces that are particularly well made or that tell you something about the time they were made. The style of a piece and the materials used all tell a story. I have some piece by Joseph Hollywood for instance that were made as film jewellery in America in the 1950s and used burnished gold so they wouldn’t reflect the studio lighting.”
Gemma, who spent part of last year studying at the London College of Fashion, now offers a personal shopping service and added: “Vintage gives you a connection with the past and it’s really popular at the moment. A lot of brides are looking for something a bit different and I think programmes like Downton Abbey and Mad Men give it a boost.
“There are a few dealers selling vintage costume jewellery but I have tried to make myself different. A lot of people specialise in gold or Chanel and while I do have a lot of those pieces, I also have a lot of pieces that aren’t as common in the country. They are not just for special occasions and they are not all designer pieces and there is a wide price range. I also give the history of each piece.”
We take a look at Gemma’s latest collection: Gemma Redmond Vintage Jewellery
Interview courtesy of Lancashire Life magazine.