Ada Johnston, The Big Time

One of the volunteers at Dalbeattie Museum has had a taste of working in the fashion industry when she joined Esther Rantzen on a programme called "The Big Time". The programme went out in 1976 and this is Ada's story...

Ada L. Johnston answered an advert in the Scottish Sunday Mail, which had been placed by Esther Rantzen, looking for someone to appear in a new show called "The Big Time". Ada had been chosen from a large number of hopefuls to make a presentation to the researchers of the show in London. Ada had always made her own colthes and had a passion for the fashion industry, so when she had won the place to appear on the show, it was a dream come true. She travelled to London with a suitcase full of her own clothes, designed and made by herself. After being chosen Ada was given a full schedule of what the programme required. Firstly, they wanted to come to Dalbeattie and film her in her home and down at the local shops. Various trips to London were to follow visiting various designers like Norman Hartnel (The Queen and Queen Mother's designer), Gina FRATINI, Liberty's for the fabric and of course the BBC workrooms. It was a learning lesson for Ada on how to make a dress from start to finish. Ada's gown was made using pure silk chiffon designed by Susan Collier for Bill Gibb, whose signature was a bee. It had a green background with poppies and cornflowers, reminding Ada of her field behind her house. It was Norman Parkinson, the photographer, who endorsed her own instinct to reflect Adas enviroment in design. The garment was shown in Gina FRATTINI's annual fashion show at The Ritz Hotel in London with all the top designers,  Gina came out at the end of the collection to announce the only amateur designer to show her design was Ada Johnston from Dalbeattie. The dress cost £250. Ada hoped by being on the show it would showcase Dalbeattie.

                      Esther Rantzen and Ada Johnston

Ada has donated the dress and all the information she collected in the 3 months of filming. The programme was shown on BBC1 and was the first in the series. Ada and Esther Rantzen became every good friends since the making of the programme and still are to this day.



                           Ada Johnston in her dress

Ada Johnston later went on to having her own dressmaking classes in Dalbeattie where she passed on her skills to others.

Ada Johnston with her dressmaking class