02 Oct 2022

IN PICTURES: New Laois children's book has outing at Roundwood House

A new Laois children's book had a special outing at an idyllic country house as part of a day of Christmas arts events recently.

The Last Beekeeper featured as a spoken word event by its author John Whelan, at a special pre-Christmas programme in the beautiful library at Roundwood House, Mountrath on Sunday December 12.

See photos in our gallery taken by Kevin Byrne. 

Other performers over the weekend included Paddy Fitzpatrick the ballad singer-songwriter from Slieve Bloom Sean Nós, David Day of Jabba Jabba Jembe, The Lost Messiahs, Cua, The Age of Reason Ensemble and the talented Roundwood House Kitchen Staff Band, which proved a big hit.

The afternoon was scheduled with the support of the Laois Arts Office with the backing of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Arts for this Music Generation Laois Local Performance Scheme, commissioned and produced by Vincent O’Shea.

The Last Beekeeper is proving a big hit with all age groups this Christmas.

It is written by author, former senator and newspaper editor John Whelan under his "hippie handle" pseudonym Johnny Renko.

“The book is flying off the shelves in the shops, at the Christmas markets and online. I’m so delighted with the response and the feedback, especially the cross-over appeal the book is having with all generations, young and old.

“The book is written is such a fashion as to be read aloud in a traditional story-telling style so the opportunity to read to an audience in the library of Roundwood House was really ideal," he said.

"It is a great initiative by Muireann Ní Chonaill and the Laois Arts Office and it was a lovely opportunity to work with Paddy Fitzpatrick who has written some great new songs, including a ballad about Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his legendary associations with Ballyfin, and everyone just loves the vibe and fun of the drum circle workshops by David Day, so it made for an engaging and fun afternoon in Roundwood,” the author said.

John Whelan will be in Portarlington this Sunday from 11am to 4pm at the final Solas Christmas Markets.

“Books are a great gift anytime of year but especially at Christmas and I’m delighted that The Last Beekeeper is getting such a response from both adults and children who are enjoying the story, the style of the language used and the easy-reading format, which was designed by the graphic artist, Gavin Cowley from Monasterevin.

"Everyone loves the painting on the book cover which is a piece entitled ‘Resilience’ by the Canadian artist, Autumn Skye Morrison. Beauty really is in the eye of the bee holder,” said John Whelan.

The book has its inspiration in the Rainbow Gathering in Rosenallis at Ballyhuppahaun in the Slieve Bloom Mountains in 1993.

To read the first chapter of The Last Beekeeper, find local stockists or to order it online for €15 go to

Monday December 20 is the final date for posting the book in time for Christmas in Ireland while the book is available from local outlets in Portlaoise, Abbeyleix, Durrow, Monasterevin, Tullamore, Carlow, Athy, Naas and Kilkenny, as well as the Winding Stair Bookshop in Dublin.

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