When Morna Duthie moved to Sitges, Spain, in autumn 1980, she wasn’t expecting to find love. “I went there after breaking up with the partner I’d been living with in Barcelona,” she says. “I had already been working in Spain as a teacher for four years. At the time I was at a school in Castelldefels.”
David West, who is originally from California, was also a teacher living in Sitges. He had discovered the coastal town by accident in 1977. “I was travelling through Europe with a friend and we stopped there when our passports were stolen,” he says. “I fell in love with it so I trained to teach in Ireland so I could go back.” He landed a job at the Dublin School of English in Barcelona two years later and commuted back and forth from Sitges.
“One day in November just after I moved, I went back to Barcelona to see my ex-boyfriend and got the last train home to Sitges,” Morna, who grew up in Scotland, recalls. “As I was getting on the train, David emerged from the bar on the platform and we got on the same carriage. He had been working late.” The pair had noticed each other around in Sitges, but hadn’t spoken before. “I thought she was beautiful, and it seemed like a good opportunity to chat,” says David.
Not long after they boarded the Costa Brava Express, they were interrupted. “Two men burst into our compartment wearing these leather jackets,” says David. “They said they were from the Guardia Civil, a military police force.” Neither Morna or David fully understood what they were searching for, but the police behaved in an aggressive manner. “They wanted to see ID and work permits and we didn’t have either,” Morna says. “They rifled through my bag, which was really scary.”
Although the police eventually moved on to another part of the carriage, the pair were left shaken. “It certainly gave us something to talk about,” laughs David. “When we got back to Sitges, we went for a drink to calm down. We got on so well and that was it. I don’t think we’ve been apart since.”
The couple share a passion for reading books and news, as well as art and culture. “We even hate the same politicians,” says Morna. “Ever since we first met, we’ve always been on the same wavelength.”
They got married in December 1981 in Gibraltar. “We went over there together in the school holidays,” says Morna. “David got a new sweater and I found a dress in a jumble sale. It was just the two of us.” Staff at the register office acted as witnesses. After the wedding, they held a party for family and friends in Barcelona.
In 1983 their first daughter was born and David landed a job in London. The family moved to Surrey and Morna found work at the same school as her husband. “He ended up becoming head of my department, so we’ve always been together, even at work,” she says. Their second daughter arrived in 1989. “The girls always saw how hard we worked and vowed they would never become teachers. Now they are grown up, they both work as teachers,” laughs Morna.
The couple moved to Edinburgh in 2019. “We enjoy galleries and museums and felt we were too far from London when we lived in Surrey,” says David. “Edinburgh offers that.” They also have a home in Spain, near Granada. “We love the language and the culture,” says Morna. “We spend a few months there every year.”
David admires his wife’s self-assurance. “I love that she is confident but she can still share her worries and insecurities with me,” he says. “We can always be honest with each other, even if we are arguing. She’s really sociable and gets me out and about.” Morna describes David as a “wonderful” partner and dad. “He’s always calm and never panics. He has a great sense of humour.” She’s also impressed by his self-discipline. “David is still running in his 70s. If he wasn’t, I think I’d just be on the sofa eating chocolate. He inspires me to keep up.”