The Very Illustrious Brother John Yarker was born on the 17th of April 1833, at the little village of Swindale, in the parish of Shap, Westoreland. When he was seven years old his parents moved to Lancashire, and afterwards when he was 16 years of age, they settled in Manchester. He belonged to the good old family, the Yarkers of Leyburn Hall, and was thirteenth in descent from Reinhold Yarker de Laybourne who was living in 1460. The Leyburn family was first mentioned by the name of Yarker, however, in the reign of Henry IV., 1399.
The Yarkers had been an Arms bearing family for five centuries. The ARMS are, "Gules, on a chevron sable. "Between three unicorns, passant, or, as many human hearts of the field." The various descents are shewn in a shield of eight quartering. The Crest is.- "A stork rising argent, collared, beaked, and legged gules, reposing the dexter claw on a like human heart as in the arms, and holding in the beak an oak branch fructed proper. The motto is, La fin couronne les oeuvres". (The end crowns the work).
It was in Manchester that Brother John Yarker entered on his Masonic career and took up those studies, which were to make him famous throughout the world in his after life.
He was initiated at the age of 21 in the Lodge of Integrity, No. 189, Manchester, on the 25th day of October, 1854, and after an interval of three months was Passed and Raised to a Master Mason. The year after, saw him occupying the Senior Warden's Chair of the Lodge of Fidelity, No. 633, and in 1857 he was elected Master of this Lodge. He still retained his membership of his Mother Lodge and served as Secretary in 1856, other offices were offered, but he resigned in 1862. He entered Mark Masonry at Mottram in 1855, and took also the Ark and Link degrees, and became the first Worshipful Master of the Fidelity Lodge of Mark Masters, No.31. In 1856 he was exalted to the degree of a Royal Arch Mason in the Industry Chapter, No. 466, and became P.Z. of the Chapter of Fidelity in 1858 and occupied the same office in the Industry Chapter for two years, 1861, 1862. When he was 23 years of age he was Installed a Knight Templar in the Jerusalem Conclave on the 11th of July, 1856.
In the midst of his busy Masonic Life he found time to marry, on January 4th, 1857, Miss Eliza Jane Lund, a native of York. In 1876 he removed, with his wife and family, to Withington and continued to reside in the same house until his death. This area was later called West Didsbury and all Yarker's documents are signed West Didsbury. He had six children.
In 1861 he was elected the Commander of the Love and Friendship Preceptory, Stockport, and in 1863, succeeding Br. William Romaine Callender, he became the Commander of the Jerusalem Conclave. Further honours fell to his share, and he was elected Grand Vice Chancellor of the Province under Brother William Courtenay Cruttenden, P. G. C., and in 1864 was appointed Grand Constable of England. In the same year he was called abroad on commercial business and travelled extensively in America, in the West Indies and Cuba.
Before he left England he revived the old York degrees of Heredom-Kadosh, formerly worked under the Duke of Sussex, being helped in this important work by old members who had been admitted in 1823 and 1833. In 1869 he was admitted into L'Ordre du Temple, the continuation of the Knights Templars in Paris.
It was a time of much activity, a Masonic renaissance, in which the Very Illustrious Brother John Yarker played an important role, and many other old Rites were rescued from the oblivion into which they had fallen - such were the Rite of Mizraim, the degree of Ark Mariners, the Red Cross of Constantine, Babylon, Palestine, Philippi, etc., and most notable of all, the Ancient and Primitive Rite, which was established by him, in Manchester, in 1871.
Very properly, therefore, we find that in 1870 the Royal Grand Council of Ancient Rites appointed him Royal Grand Superintendent of Lancashire, of these and other old Orders. For his Masonic scholarship and literary work, he was elected a member of the Masonic Archaeological Institute at its establishment in 1862. The same year he was created a Sovereign Prince Rose Croix of the Palatine Chapter of the A. and A. Rite, by Bro. Cruttenden, Most Wise, but as their claims conflicted with the old Templar grades, he ceased attending. It would be impossible to enumerate all the offices he held and all the honors that were bestowed upon him; here, however, is a short list of the more important.
1. Royal Grand Commander of the R+C and Kadosh, 1868 to 1874.
2. Scottish Rite of 33 degree, (and received certificate dating from 1811), January 27th, 1871.
3. Admitted 33 degree of Cerneau Rite and Honorary member in New York.
4. Installed Grand Master 96 degree in Ancient and Primitive Rite at Freemasons Hall, London, October 8th, 1872.
5. Absolute Sovereign Grand Master, Rite of Mizraim, 90 degree, from 1871 until his death 1913.
6. Received over 12 Patents of 33 degree, of the Supreme Council in various parts of the world.
7. Past Senior Grand Warden of Greece by Patent, July 1st, 1874.
8. Received the "Crown of Kether", admitting to the 5th degree of the Grand Lamaistique Order of Light. Ninth degree of H.B.L., third degree, third series and of the secret grades of T... M...., higher levels of Kalachackra.
9. In 1882-3, he acted as General Guiseppe Garibaldi's Grand Chancellor of the Confederated Rites, which he arranged throughout the world.
10. Honorary Grand Master of the Sovereign Grand Council of Iberico, October 5th 1889.
11. Appointed Supreme Grand Master in 1876, of the Swedenborg Rite.
12. Elected Imperial Grand Hierophant, 97 degree, in the Ancient and Primitive Rite November 11th, 1902.
13. Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Germany, 1902-6.
14. Honorary Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cuba (by Patent), January 5th, 1907.
15. Honorory Grand Master ad vitam of the United Supreme Grand Council of Italy at Firenze, and of the Society Alchemica, 1910-12.
16. Appointed President of the Sat Bhai of Prag, 1871 to 1912.
17. Head of the Rite of Ishmael in England in succession to Dr. Mackenzie and Major F.G. Irwin.
18. Chief of the Red Branch of Eri in succession to Irwin.
19. High Priest of the 7th degree of Knight Templar Priests, Manchester revived from 1868 to 1875.
20. Head of the Ordre Martiniste for England. (Charter from Papus).
In addition he received many civil decorations from foreign countries as a testimony of appreciation for his notable work.
Constantinian Order of St. George, granted 1874 by H. H. Demetrius Rhodocanakis, Hereditary Grand Master and Prince of Rhodes, descendant of the Emperors Constantine and the Paelologi, actual heir of the Byzantine Empire.
Star of Merit from the Rajah of Calcutta.
Honorory Fellow of The Society of Science, Letters and Arts, 1882. Gold medal granted 1887.
Doctor of the Hermetic Sciences, Conferred by Papus, October 10th, 1899.
Order of Glory, founded in one Class by Sultan Mahmoud II, in 1831. Granted by Sultan Abdul Hamid, June 13th, 1905.
Honorory Fellow of the Theosophical Society 1879, presented with a complimentary Jewel of the Society.
He was a prolific writer on many subjects, other than Masonic. In 1869 he compiled Notes on the Temple and Hospital, and the Jerusalem Encampment Manchester. Notes on the Scientific and Religious Mysteries of Antiquity; the Gnosis and the Secret Schools of the Middle Ages, Modern Rosicrucianism; and the various Rites and degrees of Free and Accepted Masonry.
A paper on the Egyptian Ritual of the Dead, one on Old Rosicrucian Doctrines and another on Astrology.
He contributed articles to the Free Mason's Magazine, Freemason, Free Mason's Chronicle, Kneph (which he edited from 1885), the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Research Lodge. He remained a member of this Research Lodge until his death.
In 1909 an epoch making book "Arcane Schools", was produced. It took ten years of research and it is the flower of his devotion to the Craft, and the crown of all his labours, so, in accord with his family Motto, "The end crowns the work". In it he traces the sources of the teachings of the philosophy and rites of the Craft, right back into the night of timebefore the Aryan civilizations. The mystery tradition was divided into three streams, military, sacerdotal, and artisan- this last was the sole survivor in the West, and in the Operative Guilds a genuine Mystery Tradition was preserved and handed down to modern times.
In 1910 "The Ancient Constitutional Charges of the Guild Freemasons", was edited by this distinguished scholar; it was a very valuable reprint. The introduction gives an excellent summary and classification of the old MSS. and Constitutions. The Proam contains much interesting matter and a careful comparison of the Guild Ritual and the York Rite; this parallel is not merely the concern of scholars and antiquarians, but is of vital importance to all who seek to understand the origin and evolution of Masonic ritual.
The result of profound study and much thought convinced this Illustrious Brother that the Ancient York Rite forms the basis of modern Freemasonry, and that the Operative origin of the ritual is beyond dispute.
On Thursday, March 20th, 1913, in the 80th year of his age, he returned to his home in the Eternal Orient. His wife and three daughters survived him.
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