BRIAN Sollit, who has died aged 74, was one of the foremost confectioners of his generation.
He was a leading figure in the development of the After Eight mint, among many other sweet successes in which he was involved during a long career.
Mr Sollit was born in York just as wartime shortages were about to deprive his childhood of the sugar that would be his life-long passion.
In 1954, and aged 15, he left school and got a job with Rowntree’s, where his aptitude and enthusiasm were rewarded when he was chosen to join the Cream Department.
It was there, hand-piping chocolates, that he was able to show off his flair for creative work, and it soon brought him to the notice of the department’s managers.
Less than 10 years later, in 1962, Mr Sollit had risen through the ranks to become the confectioner for the ‘Crème Experimentation’ division.
He was called aside and asked, in secret, to help come up with a method for wrapping delicate squares of peppermint fondant in fine, dark chocolate.
That was the very beginning of the After Eight mint, and 50 years later he was still enthusiastic about it.
Indeed, following his retirement, he continued to collect anything to do with his favourite sweet, from packaging to posters, eventually amassing one of the largest After Eight collections in the world.
In 2012 he came out of retirement to help make a celebratory giant After Eight to celebrate the sweet’s 50th anniversary.
Weighing 3kg, it was made of real dark chocolate and peppermint fondant, and that November he was given the opportunity to present his creation to the Houses of Parliament. It was, he said one of the proudest moments of his life; he felt like a king.
Mr Sollit had a wide circle of friends spanning the globe, and was renowned for his generosity of spirit, his outrageous sense of humour, his larger-than-life personality, and his amazing Christmas lights which, along with an impressive Christmas grotto, raised money for charity at his home each winter.
He is survived by his sister Hazel and nephews Sean and Danny.