The Bras and the Bees: The Extraordinary Life of BJ Sherriff
by FA Notley
This is a biography of particular interest to those in the bee-keeping world. It tells the story of Brian Sherriff, a man born in the late 1920s, who inherited his father’s corset factory and went on to run a bra factory in Cornwall, but lost everything in the recession of the 1970s. Using boning, net and fabric intended for bras, Brian and his wife Pat created an entirely new kind of beekeeping hood and veil – literally from the bones of the old enterprise – and founded an internationally successful beekeeping clothing company: BJ Sherriff. All BJ Sherriff garments are still produced in Cornwall.
The story takes in some unusual history: the early days of Langridge Ltd corset factory in Bristol, dating back to 1816, and details of the family’s experiences during two world wars. Brian’s father was in a reserved occupation and made panty-girdles for the WRNS and the WAAFs during World War II. Brian lived through the first nights of the Bristol Blitz as a boy and heard the lions in Bristol Zoo roaring. Brian entered the family profession of corsetry and became a much-loved director of a bra factory. Then one day he started to keep bees. His life was about to change beyond recognition.
What makes this a fascinating story is the extraordinary personality of Brian Sherriff. In his twenties he taught himself square dancing from a book and established the group Bryan Sheriff and his Square Dancing Posse, for which he acted as caller. As bra factory director, he had a calling card for dull business meetings. In his top pocket he kept what looked like a handkerchief. When taken out with a flourish, however, it revealed itself to be a miniature bra. He called it The Bra-kerchief.
This account of Brian’s life takes us through the bad times and the good and shows how one man’s tenacity, good humour and sense of adventure can make a real difference in the world.
‘Even if you’re not a beekeeper, I’m sure you’ll find the story of Brian’s life engaging, harking as it does back to simpler, slower times.’
Bill Turnbull, journalist and presenter
‘Who can resist the story of the man who invented the bra-kerchief? Beekeeping has always attracted interesting characters from all walks of life and Brian Sherriff is certainly one of that club.’
Martha Kearney, journalist and broadcaster
‘Brian and Pat Sherriff truly changed my world and the world of beekeepers everywhere. This is Brian’s story.’
Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture Magazine
Also, available from www.northernbeebooks.co.uk
Publication date: 15 April 2019