Written by Helen Brady, daughter of Ernest Brady:
The first Brady brothers were John and Albert who in about 1877 started making leather gun cases in Price Street, Birmingham for 12/6 each, about 75p in today’s money. Eventually John’s son Ernest and Albert’s son Leonard, worked in the business. In 1923 John died aged 55 and Ernest left the business. For several years Ernest worked elsewhere including a job making the trunks that went on the backs of motor cars. Then in 1928 with £500 that his father had left him and £100 borrowed from an aunt, he began in business on his own with his uncle Frank Brady travelling for the business. Eventually Ernest and Leonard moved to larger premises in Shadwell Street in Birmingham’s gun quarter. It was there Ernest first designed and made game bags, and a large selection of sporting accessories, but most particularly he designed and made himself a range of fishing bags all named after English rivers.
These bags were to become the mainstay of the company and the source of its prosperity and fame in future years. Handmade Brady gun cases were also greatly prized throughout the world, particularly by those who had Purdey guns. Oak and leather cases were made for movie and theatrical celebrities and royalty including the Sultan of Oman and the Duke of Westminster.Just before the 1939-45 war broke out Ernest took his younger brother Philip, a redundant car salesman into the business. During the war Ernest was forced to move the business into his house with the help of one stitcher and one part-time machinist. Both ladies, incidentally had worked for John and Albert, and went on to complete over 50 years with Brady Brothers.
It was a blessing that Ernest had an understanding wife who was willing to have her household disrupted with workers and business callers at the door and on the telephone. My mother contributed a great deal to the welfare of the business in the war years, for these were lean and difficult days. Our house was bombed and so was Birmingham very extensively. The city was going to have to be reconstructed and Shadwell Street was to be demolished, so Ernest decided to start up in business again by moving in 1946 to Halesowen, a small and ancient town, once a nail-making centre and part of the industrial Black Country, yet close to beautiful countryside. It was vital at this time that new outlets should be found for all our products.
Brady Bags were exported to the USA, Japan, France, Sweden, South Africa and Italy, we also enjoyed a healthy home trade. Several Brady fishing bags became sought after fashion items, particularly the Severn. Many celebrities were photographed at airports carrying them, and news men and photographers found the bags convenient to carry their heavy equipment around in. As the years past Ernest was anxious to integrate some young people into the company to take his and Philip’s place as they both grew older. Three or four candidates came and went. In 1983 I was elected as a director of the company in the hope that along with two other working directors the business could continue after Ernest and Philip’s departure, principally to ensure the jobs of those in the company, many of who, had been with us for up to thirty years and more. Ernest died soon after in 1986.The company continued under Philip’s management until 1993 when Mr Michael Goold of Goold Holdings, Walsall came along and purchased the business. Goold Holdings had already acquired Jeffries Saddlery together with the Falcon, Eldonian and Wembley brands and Brady complemented the existing business.
Brady moved their manufacturing operations from Halesowen and integrated production with Jeffries Saddlery, using the skills synonymous with the leather industry based in Walsall.
Lesley Taylor, the designer of Brady bags, joined the company in 2002, having spent the previous five years with Mulberry. Lesley has introduced new bags into the range and we quickly found that the quality values of a Brady bag appealed to a much wider audience and includes the “Discovery” range of bags which can be used as a travel item or as a fashion statement.
As in the 1930’s, Brady bags are still renowned for their quality and craftsmanship and Brady in 2007 still has solid foundations with the fishing, hunting and shooting sectors who use their traditional game bags, cartridge bags, gun slips and covers.
Brady export to North America, Europe and has a large market in Japan where, in the main, the bags are used as a fashion item. In the UK Brady bags are stocked by the prestigious stores in London.