Early life and career
Duffy was born to a Roman Catholic family in the Gorbals, a rough part of Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, in 1955, the first child of Scot Frank Duffy, an electrical fitter whose grandparents were Irish, and May Black, who was Irish herself. The couple went on to have another four children, all boys, the family moving to Stafford, England, when Duffy was six years old. "I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space/and the right place? Now, Where do you come from?/strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate." Her father worked for English Electric. He was also a trade unionist, and stood unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party in 1983, managing Stafford Rangers football club in his spare time.
Duffy was educated in Stafford at Saint Austin's RC Primary School (1962–1967), St. Joseph's Convent School (1967–1970), and Stafford Girls' High School (1970–1974), her literary talent encouraged by two English teachers, June Scriven at St Joseph's, and Jim Walker at Stafford Girls' High.