In popular Dublin parlance, Molly Malone is referred to as “The Tart with the Cart and “The Dish with the Fish”.
The song tells the fictional tale of a fishmonger who plied her trade on the streets of Dublin, but who died young, of a fever. In the late 20th century a legend grew up that there was a historical Molly, who lived in the 17th century. Molly had wheeled her wheel barrow from the Liberties to the more fashionable Grafton Street, crying ‘Cockles and Mussels’ as she went. At nights another and less admirable Molly appeared, as her chemise, basque and zapotas were replaced by an even more revealing dress, fish-net tights and stilettos. Thus provocatively attired, she sallied forth looking for clients, who tended to include students of Trinity College, a place renowned for its debauchery. Yet, we reflect, in all probability Molly was more sinned against than sinning. However, there is no evidence that the song is based on a real woman, of the 17th century or at any other time.
During Dublin’s Millennium in 1988, which was held to celebrate the discovery by historical experts that the city had been founded 1,000 years before, it was decided to erect a statue of Molly. This monument stands at the end of Grafton Street. On 18 July 2014, the statue of her in seventeenth-century dress, by Jeanne Rynhart, was temporarily placed outside the Dublin Tourist Office on Suffolk Street. It is expected to be returned to its original location in late 2017. Due to the increase in touristy foot traffic, and their penchant for being ‘handsy, the statue’s cleavage has been groped repeatedly recently. Enough so that its bronze hue has begun to wear off on the bosom. A thought occurred on the 300th anniversary of her death in 1999: what better way to commemorate her than by declaring 13 June to be International Molly Malone Day, accompanied by a Molly Malone Summer School.