Founder of BJ Sherriff Beekeeping Clothing
It is sad news about a beekeeping legend. The innovator Brian Sherriff has passed away at the age of 94.
Celebrated for the protective beekeeping clothing which bears his name, Brian Sherriff was born into a family of British corset-manufacturers, his grandfather having set up his first factory in Bristol, UK in the late 1800s. Brian was apprenticed into the family business, starting out in the cutting room. As fashions morphed from full-length corsets into the modern bra, so Brian’s career also took shape. In the 1950s, under his father’s guidance, he became director of a bra factory in Cornwall.
Brian created his own calling card. When asked to explain his line of business, this could be brought out with a flourish. “The Bra-kerchief” was a miniature replica bra which could be tucked into a gentleman’s top pocket with just a starched peak emerging, resembling a handkerchief. The presentation pack read: ‘Size 15 inch. Guaranteed to fit … as long as you’re the right size!’
The bra factory enjoyed success. However, as market forces changed in the late 1960s, Brian acquired his first beehives, intending to set himself up as a bee-farmer. This was not to be his future, however.
It was a bee sting which took his career in a new direction. Brian always credited his beloved wife Patricia with the invention of the BJ Sherriff beekeeping hood. Unlike a traditional hat and veil, which he had found not to be sting-proof, the structured hood she designed was very effective and revolutionized beekeeping. The first prototype was made using materials they had to hand in the bra factory: boning and net intended for bras, and fabric reserved for swimming costume gussets. A full-length bee-suit soon followed, featuring a sheriff’s star and the brand BJ Sherriff was born.
Brian’s early life was spent in Bristol, where as a teenager he experienced bombing raids, later recalling the smoke and the sound of the lions roaring in Bristol Zoo. He fully expected to go into active service when he left school and was trained in the use of a Sten gun. To his relief, he never went to war; peace was declared just weeks before his seventeenth birthday.
Brian Sherriff, born 24 May 1928, died 6 August 2022.