Who is Molly Malone?

The ballad Molly Malone also known as Cockles and Mussels tells the story of a Dublin woman named Molly Malone, an attractive fishmonger who sold cockles and mussels from her barrow which she wheeled through the streets of Dublin city. The ballad tells how the woman died of a fever and now her ghost haunts the city streets.

The song is popular with both Irish people and visitors to the country and is strongly associated with Dublin city. The composer of the ballad is unknown and it is not known when or where the song originated. Molly Malone herself is a figure of mystery with many questions remaining unanswered about the know iconic Dublin woman.

In 1988 as part of the Dublin Millennium celebrations a statue of Molly Malone was erected towards the end of Grafton Street at the corner of Suffolk Street. The statue of an attractive woman dressed in a revealing top with her wheel barrow alluded to the common perception that Molly also worked as a prostitute. The statue was erected at this location as it was thought a Mary Malone (Molly is a derivative of Mary) was baptised in St. John’s Church on Suffolk Street however, in 1988 birth and death records of a Mary Malone were presented to the then Lord Mayor which showed that this woman had been baptised and buried at St. John’s church on Fishamble Street. This mix up caused confusion over the identity of the woman in the song and caused people to question if she ever existed, this mystery surrounding Molly Malone has served to heighten people’s interest in her.

Was there ever a fishmonger named Molly Malone? Does she now roam the streets of Dublin as a ghost?

Who knows..

In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive a-live O!

A-live a-live O! A-live a-live O!
Crying cockles and mussels alive a-live O!

She was a fishmonger and sure it was no wonder
For so were her father and mother before
And they both wheeled their barrows through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive a-live O!

A-live a-live O! A-live a-live O!
Crying cockles and mussels alive a-live O!

She died of a fever and no one could save her
And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone
Now her ghost wheels her barrow through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive a-live O!

A-live a-live O! A-live a-live O!
Crying cockles and mussels alive a-live O!
A-live a-live O! A-live a-live O!
Crying cockles and mussels alive a-live O!

Laura Finn

 

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About Grafton Street

Grafton Street was named after Henry FitzRoy, The 1st Duke of Grafton, he was the illegitimate son of Charles II of England who owned land in the area and was developed from a country lane by the Dawson family in 1708, after whom the parallel Dawson Street is named.

Grafton Street runs from the top of St. Stephen's Green to (Trinity) College Green.

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