Snowball Maker Also Left Enduring Business Legacy

Article featured in The Irish Times Obituaries - Saturday May 22th 2010

THOMAS CAFFREY, who has died aged 92, was a confectioner whose creations included the Snowball, the Marshmallow Mouse and the Big Time. Often referred to as Ireland's Willie Wonka, he set up his first chocolate factory in Dublin in the 1930's. Today Caffrey's Confectionery is the oldest Irish family-owned chocolate company trading under its family name.

Thomas Caffrey was born in Dublin in 1917 and as a young man spent his summers working in the isle of man where his brother William, a chocolatier and a sugar boiler, worked as the manager of a chocolate factory. Thomas returned to Dublin and set up his first factory in Harold's Cross in the 1930's. He later moved the business to Walkinstown, from where the company still operates.

Having started out making rock candies and marshmallows, the companies big break came in 1953 when it was contracted by Woolworth's to manufacture souvenir confectionery to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Thomas invented products indelibly etched on the memories of generations of Irish School Children, including such evocative brand names as the Snowball, Chocolate Mallow, Tea Cake and Whipper, as well as Macaroon, Big Time and MintCrisp Bars

He was always on the lookout for new ideas and found inspiration all around him. The idea for one of his most fondly remembered treats came when he saw his son Neville playing with a wind up toy mouse as a child. He asked if he could borrow the toy and made moulds from it, resulting in countless irish children happily biting the heads off marshmallow mice.

He loved chocolate and ate it everyday. He would often say that lecithin, an emulsifier used in chocolate manufacturing, was good for you. His longevity may be a testament to this view. According to his son Neville, his preferred treat was also one of the nations' favourite - his own Snowball

He had a great awareness of people and this trait influenced how he treated his employees. He observed a strict code that his workers be treated well, as he believed his staff were the key to his business.

He had a passion for his job and continued working in the company until his 70's. Even after his retirement, he remained involved and inquired about the company every day until his death.

Caffrey's is one of the few remaining independent chocolate manufacturers in Ireland. It employs 50 to 60 people at peak periods such as Easter

In his spare time, Thomas Caffrey enjoyed tending his garden and loved to read books about exotic plants.He was rugby mad and followed Ireland and Leinster taking great pleasure in witnessing the province's journey to the Heineken Cup victory in 2009. He was conscious of his own health and kept a skipping rope and weights in the garage.

He was predeceased by his wife Eileen and is survived by Neville, Elizabeth, daughter-in-law Rachel, son-in-law Paul, grandchildren Neville Jnr, Natasha and Daniel and great-grandchildren Josh, Alison and Cillian, brothers and Sisters

Thomas Andrew Caffrey, born: September 12th, 1917; died: May 15th, 2010