Latest Laois Event: Big buzz as local author John Whelan launches his latest book ‘The Last Beekeeper’

Latest Laois Event: Big buzz as local author John Whelan launches his latest book ‘The Last Beekeeper’

Heritage Minister commends contribution of new children’s book on nature and climate action

Heritage Minister, Mr Malcolm Noonan said the launch of The Last Beekeeper is only the first stage of a long journey as he hoped the book would be brought to children throughout the entire country.

“It is easy and a pleasure for me to launch this beautifully written book with its deep love of nature and it’s only the start of its journey as I hope it is brought to children around the entire country. It is a timely book and, ultimately a story of hope, and we must remain hopeful. The Last Beekeeper is a valuable contribution to the conversations and discourse we must have around climate action and the role we all have to play,” the Minister said.

Minister Noonan was the guest speaker at the launch of The Last Beekeeper in the resplendent setting of the Organerie and Gardens in Butler House, Kilkenny on Friday. It was an ideal location for the launch of this book for children of all ages and those young at heart, as the hazy sunshine brought the best out of the autumnal colours to make for a glorious backdrop as the overnight rains receded.

As family, friends and nature lovers gathered for the book launch Minister Noonan did however, sound a note of caution as to the climate challenges which lay ahead, the impact they would have on our environment and very existence as well as the very real threat to iconic species such as the curlew, corncrake, natterjack toad and the hen harrier. 

“Unfortunately, you’re also going to hear a lot of hot air from the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow next week and perhaps not a lot of action, but we must remain committed and press on with our own plans for climate action by engaging with all the stakeholders,” the Minister said.

Proceedings got underway in the idyllic surroundings when 2nd Year Student, Aoibheann Keyes, from the Presentation Secondary School, Kilkenny set the scene when she read superbly from the first chapter of the book.

To the strains of didgeridoo and drumming, the book’s author John Whelan, writing under the pseudonym Johnny Renko, “his hippy handle” explained the influence the European Rainbow Gatherings in the Slieve Blooms and Slovenia in the mid-1990’s had on him.

“The Rainbow People were before their time in terms of protecting the environment, living in harmony with each other and nature, respecting the landscape and the earth. They had a profound influence on me as they walked the walk, thousands of them living on the side of a mountain for weeks and yet when they departed, they left no trace, not a sweet wrapper or a cigarette butt, only happy memories. This is a story I have always wanted to tell as I felt there is great opportunity for us all to learn from their approach and attitude,” the author outlined the background context to his new book.

Robbie, Essie, Art and Kayla along with John reading from the book at the launch The Laois Collection©Kevin Byrne Photography

“We all want to save the planet; we all want to play our part. No parent or grandparent would wilfully damage the environment or prospects of their children or future generations and yet there’s this glaring gap between our aspirations and our actions in terms of environmental damage. Global warming is probably a misnomer when it comes to the real existential threat being posed to so many species and ourselves. What’s probably required is a human metamorphosis in terms of our behaviour, lifestyle, largescale waste, pollution, and corporate culture. While we all may genuinely want to save the planet, our attitude seems to be, not just yet, and not on our patch,” John Whelan aka Johnny Renko told the audience at the book launch.

He further outlined that the book was written in a style of traditional seanchaí storytelling, to be read aloud in an inter-generational experience. The book contains a glossary to address the meaning of colloquial and gaelic expressions and phrases.

“The initial feedback I’m getting is that adults are enjoying the story as much as children, so that’s a good sign,” he said.

The Last Beekeeper’ by Johnny Renko is available for €15 from: All Books, Portlaoise; Nook and Cranny, Portlaoise; Anthology, Abbeyleix; Barker & Jones, Naas; Midland Books, Tullamore; Organic Corner, Tullow St, Carlow, other selected bookshops nationwide or online from