Davinder Mehan, the father of the current generation of Mehans, moved to Donegal from the Punjab in Northern India in the early sixties.
His uncle Balam Kand Mehan – or Bosy as he was locally known – had been based in Letterkenny since the 1930s, where he had a drapery business.
Devinder began selling clothes around the Gaeltacht areas of north-west Donegal. He started on a bicycle, with his wares in a suitcase on the carrier. And he quickly became a well known character around the area.
The business went well. Soon Devinder was able to buy a van, and thus able to cover more territory. There were very few vans on the roads of north-west Donegal in the mid-sixties. And even fewer driven by Indians. Devinder and his green Morris Minor, CIH 212, soon became a familiar sight.
A couple of years later Devinder went back to India to visit his family. His parents decided that it was time for him to marry. Ramesh was chosen as the most appropriate match – by his parents. Devinder and Ramesh met only once, for tea, before they were wed. A couple of months later Ramesh arrived in midwinter Letterkenny wearing only her sari and sandals, and with only a few words of English.
Fast forward fifty years. Bliss, the shop set up by Devinder on the Main Street in Letterkenny, is celebrating 30 years in business this year. It’s run by Sanjay Mehan, the oldest of the Mehan brothers.
Bobby, the next eldest, has a shop in Strabane, another in Donegal town, and is a familiar figure at street markets throughout the northwest. Raj, the youngest son, runs the shop in Raphoe, the first that the Mehans opened in the mid-sixties.
Meanwhile daughter Shona works in the Tourist Office in Letterkenny. Devinder and Ramesh are still very involved in the business. And the family is now known throughout Donegal as the Meehans.
The programme traces the story of this unique family. It takes a trip with Sanjay and Devinder Mehan through the Gaeltacht areas of west Donegal, visiting some old customers as well as the shops in Letterkenny and Raphoe, the market in Falcarragh where Bobby has a stall, and Glenveigh national park, where the Mehans pay a visit to the statue of Ganesh, so central to their Hindu faith.
The Mehans – Níos Conallaí ná na Conallaigh will be broadcast on TG 4 on Sunday, November 2nd at 9.30 pm with a repeat on Monday November 3rd at 7.30 pm.