32, Devonshire Road, Claughton, Birkenhead: the childhood home of A.S.J. Tessimond.
Tessimond's parents, George and Amy, married in West Derby, Liverpool in 1885. Though the unfamiliar family name perhaps suggests some foreign origin, it seems most likely that it is a derivation of the English surname Tesseyman.They were a local couple; George was the son of an iron foundry owner who in 1871 was employing a staff of 20 men and 10 boys. George then worked as a bank branch inspector, and by 1901 the couple had moved to the solid, elegant, semi-detatched villa in Devonshire Road, Birkenhead. Though Hubert Nicholson states that he was an only child, the 1901 census records that the couple had a daughter before him: Lillian C. Tessimond, who would have been 15 when the poet was born. The relative grandeur of the house indicates that the family at this time were materially comfortable, indeed in 1938 his mother must have had sufficient wealth to have made a generous donation of £5 to the 'Lord Baldwin Appeal on behalf of the victims of religious, racial and political persecution'.* They lived in the house with George’s sister Elizabeth employing two members of staff. Nicholson mentions that as a child the poet ‘relied for human warmth on a kindly old aunt. (She lived to ninety, and left him some money.)’ and it is possible that this was Elizabeth.
People who are afraid of themselves
Multiply themselves into families
And so divide themselves
And so become less afraid.
People who might have to go out
Into clanging strangers’ laughter,
Crowd under roofs, make compacts
To no more than smile at each other.
People who might meet their own faces
Or surprise their own voices in doorways
Build themselves rooms without mirrors
And live between walls without echoes.
People who might meet other faces
And unknown voices round corners
Build themselves rooms all mirrors
And live between walls all echoes.
People who are afraid to go naked
Clothe themselves in families, houses,
But are still afraid of death
Because death one day will undress them.
*Times, Thursday, Dec 15, 1938.