Molly Malone

The popular Irish song, Molly Malone tells the story of the fictional tale of a young girl whom is a fishmonger.  She pushes her cart throughout the streets of Dublin, plying her trade.  Sadly, she dies at a young age of a fever.Molly Malone

No one knows for sure if this song is based on a real person.  Throughout the latter part of the 20th Century, legend grew that there was a historical Molly, who lived in the 17th Century.  Some researchers have searched for a Molly Malone in historical records, including checking for a Mary Malone and Margaret Malone, since Molly is often a nickname for these names.  However, no evidence has been found that the song is based on a real woman of any time period.

Due to the chorus where Molly calls out, “Cockles and Mussels” the song is sometimes referred to by this title.  Molly Malone is set in Dublin, Ireland and has been come the unofficial anthem of Dublin City.  Some people even refer to the song as “Dublin’s Fair City.”

In 1988, the city of Dublin declared June 13 as Molly Malone Day.  The town unveiled the statue they had commissioned of Molly Malone pushing her cart.  Controversy surrounded the low cut of her shirt, which was standard wear for a woman in the 17th Century. The statue is affectionately referred to by the locals as “The Tart with the Cart.”  Some controversy surrounded the statue for a while and the belief of some that Molly was a prostitute by night.  However, most locals seem to have embraced Molly.  In 2003, the Dublin City Council sponsored a Dublin on Ice Show in which an ice statue was replicated of the popular “Tart with the Cart” statue.

800px-Molly_Malone_073007The song is first known to have been recorded in 1883.   It was written and composed by James Yorkston of Edinburgh, and the music arranged by Edmund Forman.  The ballad is first known to be published by Francis Brothers and Day in Cambridge, MA in 1884.

Some historians believe the song was influenced by earlier Irish folk songs, but no evidence of this has been found.  The song is often grouped with other Irish ballads but has tones of a music hall resonance.

A music hall resonance refers to the British theatrical entertainment of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Britain.  It involves a mixture of popular songs, comedy, specialty acts and variety entertainment.  The term is similar to the American vaudeville and burlesque styles.

Regardless of her origins, Molly Malone is an Irish favorite that will keep us intrigued and discussing her story, origins and legend for years to come.



In Dublin’s fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”/
“Alive, alive, oh,
Alive, alive, oh,”
Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”.

:She was a fishmonger, :But sure ’twas no wonder,

For so were her father and mother before,
And they wheeled their barrows,
Through the streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”
She died of a fever,

:And no one could save her,

And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone.
But her ghost wheels her barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”