The Secret Room

The Secret Room (Y Stafell Ddirgel) (1969) is a novel by Marion Eames about the founding of Quakerism in Wales.  A blend of history and fiction, it depicts the initial Welsh contacts with Friends, the subsequent persecutions and the decision to immigrate to Pennsylvania.  Its central character is Rowland Ellis, a local gentry and the owner of Bryn Mawr farm.  “The Secret Room” refers to the place in the heart in which the Inner Light is encountered.  Eames wrote The Secret Room in Welsh while Margaret Phillips translated it into English.  In 2001 BBC Wales featured a television adaptation of the book.  The Fair Wilderness (Y Rhandir Mwyn), a sequel, recounts the settling of Welsh Friends in Pennsylvania.

I found The Secret Room a lively read.  It gave me a sense of how it must have been for Friends in the early period of Quakerism.

                                                                                       Gary Sandman

July 2024

Lego & Wooden Meetings for Worship

A Lego Meeting for Worship has been created by a young Friend of Community Meeting in Cincinnati. It shows brightly colored figures sitting in a large rectangle, a gray brick mat underneath, a green window seat and yellow fireplace in the foreground and background. On the right children and parents head off to First Day School.

A Lego Zoom Meeting for Worship has been constructed by a Friend of Edinburgh Meeting. A Lego in-person Edinburgh Meeting for Worship has also been built.

Lego, the largest toy manufacturer in the world, was founded in 1932 in Denmark. The name Lego derives from the Danish “leg godt”, which means “play well”. In 1949 they began producing small interlocking plastic bricks, and in 1978 they started making plastic minifigs (small figures).

A wooden Meeting for Worship has been assembled by the Faith & Play Group, which creates lessons for First Day School. Plain wood figures perch in front of an open doorway.

Faith & Play began in 2005 as a joint effort of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and Friends General Conference. They encourage Friends to use storytelling and to make their own materials.

I was delighted to come across the Lego Meetings for Worship. The mix of people and animals at Community Meeting is especially charming. (I spotted a crab, pig, flamingo and Mickey Mouse). In its own way the unadorned Faith & Play Meeting for Worship is also quite appealing. Very Zen.

To the right, in turn, are pictures of Community Meeting, Edinburgh Meeting and Faith & Play Meetings for Worship.

Gary Sandman

June 2024


Dear Friends,

If you enjoy the monthly columns I write on Friendly art and artists, you may also enjoy my “Quaker Artists” book. Below is more information.

Gary Sandman



*that Judi Dench, James Michener and Annie Oakley were Quakers?

*that Joan Baez, Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abrahams have attended Friends Meeting?

*that Dave Matthews, Bonnie Raitt and James Dean were raised Quakers?

*that Popeye the Quaker Man, a Quaker Tapestry and Quaker stained glass exists?

*that Bolivian Friends, Rwandan Friends and Chinese Friends art exists?

*that Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman were influenced by Friends?

*that William Penn and Margaret Fell wrote poetry?

The second edition of the book Quaker Artists contains the stories of the above artists and more: 286 reviews in all, a history of Friends, a history of Quaker art, study questions, artist’s queries, 44 reproductions of the artists’ works, 51 illustrations, a bibliography, an alphabetical index and an artist’s index. The period covered is 1659 to 2015. Friends from 18 different countries are included. Poets, painters, dancers, musicians, films and 13 other categories are included. (It is three times the size of the first edition!)

Quaker Artists is an entertaining and celebratory read in itself but it has other uses, too: as a resource for study groups, a reference for libraries and a curriculum for First Day Schools.

Gary Sandman, a member of Roanoke Meeting in Roanoke, Virginia, is the author of the second edition of Quaker Artists. To purchase, send check or money order, made out to Gary Sandman, to 214 Summit Way SW, Roanoke VA 24014. To purchase the book online through PayPal, look at an excerpt or see updates on new QA writings, check this website.

Paperback, 287 pages: $21. Ebook: $6.

Quaker Meeting Game

“Quaker Meeting” is a children’s game.  The leader starts by reciting a rhyme: “Quaker Meeting has begun/no more talking/no more fun/no more chewing gum”.  (Several versions of the rhyme exist).  The leader whispers into the ears of the participants, one by one, instructing them to perform a silly task, such as crawling around while grunting like a pig or kissing all the furniture.  When the leader calls upon a participant, they act silly.  The other participants who smile or laugh or make any sort of sound have to drop out of the game.  Versions of “Quaker Meeting” began to appear in books of games in the 19th century.  It is a variant of the “Quiet Game”.

“Quaker Meeting” is, of course, a gentle poke of fun at Friends silent Meeting for Worship.

Gary Sandman

May 2024

Waldo Williams


Waldo Williams (1921-1971) was a Welsh poet, activist and teacher.  Among his works were Dail Pren (Leaves of the Tree), Y Tangnefeddwyr (The Peacemakers) and Cerddi Waldo Williams (The Poems of Waldo Williams).  A life-long pacifist, Williams was a conscientious objector during World War Two, which led to his firing as a headmaster.   He also began refusing to pay war taxes because of the Korean War and conscription, a protest which he continued until 1963 and for which he was imprisoned twice and had his property seized. (He recalled that the high point of this experience was “the request of the bailiff … after he had tidily rolled up the linoleum …. for a piece of string to tie the roll!”).  To permit him to withhold his taxes, he resigned his position as a teacher and worked as a tutor, which forced him to live in poverty.  Williams was also a Welsh nationalist, who stood for Parliament as the Plaid Cymru candidate and who spoke and wrote in the Welsh language.  He taught at various schools in Wales and England, especially in his native Pembrokeshire.

Williams joined Milford Haven Friends Meeting in 1953.  (He had been raised a Baptist and continued also to attend their chapel throughout his life).  He was drawn to Quaker silent worship and by the belief in the Inner Light, peace and simplicity.  In 1956 Williams published the pamphlet Why I Am a Quaker.  Friends House in London has a room dedicated to him, and the Quaker Tapestry has a panel featuring him.

On a night in February 1941 Williams was walking in the Prescili Hills, outside of Swansea, Wales.  He saw the sky over Swansea glowing from fire.  It was the start of the “Three Nights’ Blitz”, a German bombing attack during which hundreds were killed, thousands were left homeless, and the city center was destroyed.  Afterward, recalling his parents, who were also pacifists, he wrote Y Tangnefeddwyr (The Peacemakers):


Rose-red sky above the snow/Where bombed Swansea is alight,/Full of my father and mother I go,/I walk home in the night./They are blest beyond hearing,/Peacemakers, children of God.

Neither, within their home, abuse/Nor slander could be found./Mam would look for an excuse/For the biggest scoundrels round./They are blest beyond hearing,/Peacemakers, children of God.

It was the angel of poor homes/Gave my father two rich pearls:/Brotherhood the mission of man,/God’s largesse the invisible world./They are blest beyond hearing,/Peacemakers, children of God.

Nation good or nation bad/(So they taught) is fantasy./In Christ’s light is freedom had/For any man that would be free./Blest, the day dawns that will hear them,/Peacemakers, children of God.

What is their estate tonight,/Tonight, with the world ablaze?/Truth is with my father yet,/Mother with forgiveness stays./The age will be blest that hears them,/Peacemakers, children of God.

Below is a link to the Welsh original:

Y Tangnefeddwyr (The Peacemakers) remains a great favorite of Welsh choirs.  Below is a link to a performance of the poem, set to music by Eric Jones and sung by the Morriston RFC Male Voice Choir and displaying photographs of the attack.

Williams was one of the foremost Welsh poets.  And he was an inspiration to peacemakers everywhere.

Gary Sandman

April 2024


Fleabag (2016-2019) is a British comedy-drama television series about an anonymous young woman in London. The show refers to the young woman as “Fleabag” and depicts her as free-spirited but angry.  It explores her relationships with her family, friends and lovers, especially the death of her best friend and her unrequited love for a Catholic priest.  (Also anonymous, the latter is called “The Priest”).  A signature effect of the show is Fleabag’s frequent turn to the camera to address the viewer, during which she shares funny, if cynical comments, or offers ironic glances.  Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrote and starred in the show.  Fleabag won a British Television Academy Award, six Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award. Currently the show appears on Prime Video.

In Season Two, Episode Four, The Priest and Fleabag stroll down a London street.  The Priest informs her that he wants to show her something special and leads her into a nearby building.  Fleabag discovers that they have entered a Quaker meetinghouse.  She explains that one is supposed to speak when moved by the Spirit.  She adds that it is very intense.  She also notes, “It’s very erotic”.  After stating that she is not really feeling anything, she begins to shake and then rise, murmuring, “Oh, no, what am I going to say, what am I going to say?”  Finally, she says loudly, “I sometimes worry I wouldn’t be such a feminist if I had bigger (breasts)”.  Across the room The Priest stifles giggles.  Afterward, back on the street, Fleabag appears embarrassed.  The Priest says at least something moved her.  She responds that she isn’t sure she needed to be moved to realize that about her feminism.

Andrew Scott, who portrayed The Priest, inspired the Quaker scene.  When Waller-Bridge was trying to recruit him to play the role, he took her to Westminister Friends Meeting in central London, so they could talk.  It turned out that he often goes there as it is a quiet space in London.  The scene was filmed at the Westminster Meetinghouse.

Fleabag is a graphic, if hilarious show.  At first, I was taken aback at Fleabag’s ministry, but now I find it rather funny.

Gary Sandman


Rustin (2023) is a film depicting the life of Bayard Rustin, the political activist.  It focuses on his organization of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the high points of the Civil Rights movement.  Colman Domingo plays Rustin, with a cast that includes Chris Rock, Glynn Turman,  CCH Pounder, Jeffrey Wright, and Audra McDonald.  Julian Breece wrote the story, and Breece and Dustin Lance Black wrote the screenplay.  The song “Road to Freedom” was composed by Lenny Kravitz for the film.  George C. Wolfe directed, and Barack and Michelle Obama produced.

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) was a life-long activist.  Inspired by Gandhi, he was the person responsible for bringing non-violence into the Civil Rights movement.  For the rest of his life, Rustin continued to struggle for the oppressed on every conceivable issue, especially advocating for economic justice.  An openly gay man, he never concealed his sexual orientation.

Rustin was born a Pennsylvania Friend and raised by his Quaker grandmother.  His first experience with politics came through the American Friends Service Committee programs he attended as a teen.  After he moved to New York City, he joined Fifteenth Street Meeting.  He was a co-founder of the Mary McDowell Friends School and a board member for the New York office of the American Friends Service Committee.

Rustin stated, “My activism did not spring from being black.  Rather, it is rooted fundamentally in my Quaker upbringing and the values instilled in me by the grandparents who reared me”.  Walter Naegle, Rustin’s partner, noted: “When he had to really consider a question or a problem, he would go into a long period of silence and just kind of sit quietly and mull over the issue before he would speak about it.  And I think that was pretty much true throughout his life.”

I was a member of Fifteenth Street Meeting once.  By the time I got there, Bayard had passed away.  Older Friends still remembered him fondly, though.  One of them, smiling, recalled, “He always felt Quakers should be doing more”.

Rustin is a remarkable and moving film.  Colman Domingo offers a powerful portrayal.  Don’t miss this film.  It’s streaming now on Netflix.

                                                                                                Gary Sandman

February 2024


Endeavour (2012-2022) is the prequel to the Inspector Morse television series.  The years covered are 1965 to 1972.  Shaun Evans plays the young Endeavour Morse, early in his career with the Oxford City Police, first as a detective constable, then as a detective sergeant.  Russell Lewis wrote the Endeavour series, based on the character created by Colin Dexter in the Inspector Morse books.  Barrington Pheloung scored the music.  ITV commissioned the series, and Amazon Prime streams it currently. 

Arcadia, Season 3, Episode 2, tells the story of the attempted extortion of an Oxford supermarket, which results in murders and a kidnapping.  Set in 1967, hippie communes, Oxford University students, action painting, Green Stamps and apartheid protests also figure into the plot.  Bryan Higgins directed the episode.

Morse reveals his Quaker background in Arcadia.  Leo Richardson is the owner of the supermarket while Ivor Maddox is the manager.  The Richardsons are lapsed Friends, though Leo’s daughter still attends Meeting.  The Maddoxs remain Friends.  Morse goes to the “Friends House” to speak to Prudence Maddox about the case.  After Meeting for Worship, he explains that he was raised a Quaker but only went to Meeting because his mother would have been hurt if he had refused.  He notes, sadly, “Still your mind, Mother would say, that was the point.  (I) never had the knack”.  He is now an atheist.  The Jordans Quaker Meetinghouse served as the location for the scene.

I have always enjoyed the Inspector Morse books and television shows.  It was a delight to discover Morse’s Friendly roots.

Gary Sandman

Thomas Holme

Thomas Holme (1624-1695) was an Irish/English cartographer, surveyor, soldier and merchant.   A captain in Cromwell’s New Model Army, he seems to have learned surveying during his military service.  He was granted land in Ireland by Cromwell.  As a merchant, he carried on trade in Europe, New England and Barbados.

Holme was converted to Quakerism in Ireland, probably by George Fox.  During his time there, because he was a Friend, he was jailed, fined and beaten.  In 1682 he was invited by William Penn to become the first Surveyor General of Pennsylvania.  He laid out the plan of Philadelphia and created the first detailed map of Pennsylvania.  His “A Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia” (1683) is the earliest map of Pennsylvania and the first town plan in the British colonies.  Holme was appointed by Penn to the first Assembly of the Province and to the Provincial Council.  In the mid-1680’s he was also acting Governor.

Holme’s maps were hugely influential in town planning in the British colonies.  They helped Philadelphia develop into the largest city in colonial America.  Prompted by Penn’s goal for Philadelphia to become “a greene countrie town”, they also represented the first effort at a sustainable American city.  The maps were drawn originally on sheepskin, from which plates were engraved by John Thornton in England.

Thomas Holme and his maps were representative of the Quaker dedication to the crafts.  The crafts substituted for art among Friends in our founding period. 

Please note: this Thomas Holme should not be confused with Thomas Holme (c. 1626-1666), who was known as the Apostle of Quakerism to Wales.

Below is a detail of A mapp of ye improved part of Pensilvania in America (1687) by Thomas Holme, showing a plan of Philadelphia. At the center of the map, in Centre Square, is Centre Square Friends Meeting House, built 1685-1687 and demolished in 1702.

Gary Sandman

December 2023

The George Fox Oak Photographs

Two photographs of an oak tree beneath which George Fox preached were taken in 1860.  Together they composed a stereograph, a photograph that creates a three- dimensional effect.  The photographs were albumen prints, measuring about 3 by 6 ½ inches.  George Stacy was the photographer.  Part of the Larry Gottheim Collection, they rest now in the Library of Congress.

George Fox journeyed to America in 1671, speaking in the Caribbean and along the East Coast.  In Flushing, in New York City, he stayed at the Bowne House.  Because so many people wanted to hear him, he addressed them under two large oaks across from the building.  One of the trees fell in 1840; the other fell in 1863.  Both probably died due to a combination of old age and the construction of Bowne Street, which disturbed their roots.  The George Fox Stone, a granite marker, was installed in 1907 to commemorate the site.  Two lithographs, one by Charles Motte, the other anonymous, both from the early 19th century, depicted Fox preaching beneath the trees.  In 1841 Samuel B. Parsons wrote a poem about the oaks.

From Fox’s Autobiography:

“From Oyster Bay, we passed about thirty miles to Flushing where we had a very large meeting, many hundreds of people being there; some of whom came about thirty miles to it. A glorious and heavenly meeting it was (praised be the Lord God!), and the people were much satisfied.”

The George Fox Oak Photographs are haunting, sepia portraits of a tree in winter.  When I lived in New York City, I spent time in Flushing and passed the oak’s location many times.

                                                                                      Gary Sandman

November 2023