Johnny Renko

  The Last Beekeeper book launch  was performed by the Minister for Heritage

Mr. Malcolm Noonan


Butler House Gardens & Orangerie


“It is lovely to see such beautiful writing about nature and the crisis we face and how
we can respond to it. This is a timely and important publication.”

– Minister forHeritage, Mr Malcolm Noonan TD

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.

“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 

“It is lovely to see such beautiful writing about nature and the crisis we face and how
we can respond to it. This is a timely and important publication.”

– Minister for Heritage, Mr Malcolm Noonan TD

The Last Beekeeper – New Book For Children To Create A Buzz… Naturally, It Has A Sting In The Tale

Minister for Heritage to officially launch new book on Climate Change in Kilkenny

Quirky storyline sees two best friends in quest which celebrates the best traditions of inter-generational storytelling 

‘This story is about how climate change is knocking on our front door and features corncrakes and hares rather than koala and polar bears’

A chance encounter with Rainbow People almost 30 years ago is the inspiration for a new book for children, which explores the challenges around climate change which are posed today and poised to confront future generations.

The Last Beekeeper’ by Johnny Renko, the pseudonym for journalist and former Senator, John Whelan will be launched by the Minister for Heritage, Mr Malcolm Noonan, in Kilkenny at the end of October.

“When I was dispatched to report on what was happening in Rosenallis in the Slieve Bloom mountains in 1993 when thousands of colourful Rainbow People converged on the townland of Ballyhuppahaun little did I realise the profound and abiding impact it would have on me. This is the story I have always been meaning to tell, firstly for my children and now as it turns out for my grandchildren, thirty years on. The Rainbow People were intriguing in so many ways. I was fascinated by the resourcefulness and ingenuity. They were way before their time in terms of eco-living, conservation, leave no trace, carbon footprint and so many of the issues which have since become mainstream and part of our daily dialogue. 

“I was fascinated in the Slieve Blooms back then and a year later when I travelled to join them in Slovenia, how thousands of strangers, from so many nationalities, could live on the side of a mountain, respect the landscape, share resources and look out for each other while in perfect harmony with nature. I always felt it would be fantastic if we could learn from them, apply this approach and scale it up across society in general, it would help solve many of the issues around waste, pollution and the threat to our environment and biodiversity that we now face,” explains the author of the back story to The Last Beekeeper.


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“While I have been meaning to write this story for years, the timing has never felt so apt as it’s never been more topical. The story is written to suit the oral tradition of Irish storytelling, ó ghlúin go glúin, and yet the theme is universal; what sort of a world are we handing over to our children, grandchildren, and future generations.

Speaking in advance of the book’s launch at Butler House Gardens and Orangerie on Friday, October 29th, Minister Noonan had this to say:

“We are facing an immense global challenge in tackling biodiversity loss. In this decade of ecosystem restoration, it is important that we restore our relationship with nature – specifically with the living creatures with whom we share this planet. The first step in this process is acknowledging that human beings, non-human animals, and plants are all one and the same – each playing a non-hierarchical part in the drama called: the rich tapestry of life. 

“John’s writing will inspire young people to be a part of and indeed to lead the important conversations that are an essential starting point in bringing about such restoration, but more than that it will also motivate them further to really want to engage with this process of change and become ecologists, marine biologists, entomologists, etc. This is a timely piece of writing, and I am delighted to be associated with its launch.”

Even before its launch during the midterm school holidays, The Last Beekeeper is creating quite a stir thanks to its stunningly powerful and poignant book cover. It features a painting by Canadian artist, Autumn Skye Morrison, entitled ‘Resilience’.

“This exceptional work by Autumn Skye which dates to 2017 is so moving and encapsulates the spirit and essence of the story. I’m absolutely thrilled to have permission to use this image on the book. It’s a perfect match to capture the reader’s attention as they set out on the story. In this instance I certainly hope that it’s a case of where you can judge the book by the cover,” says the author.

The book cover and typography are by talented graphic designer, Gavin Cowley, who is originally from Tullamore and now resides in Monasterevin.

The cover notes on the book hint as to what lies in store for the reader.

“Two best friends, one great journey, the adventure of a lifetime. Their quest, to find The Last Beekeeper, and save the world. They learn so much along the way. With the end in sight the outcome remains in the balance. It falls to you to make the difference, to determine what happens next…

“The Last Beekeeper is written to be read aloud in an inter-generational experience, a book for those young at heart, children of all ages. Explore. Engage. Enjoy the journey.”

The Last Beekeeper will be launched by the Minister for Heritage, Mr Malcolm Noonan on Friday, October 29th, at 11am in Butler House Gardens and Orangerie. It’s a family-friendly event and adults should be accompanied by a child.

The Last Beekeeper will be available at €15 from selected book shops and outlets nationwide and online from