The song ‘Molly Malone’, also known as ‘Cockles and Mussels’ tells the story of an attractive fishmonger in Dublin named Molly Malone. The song tells how she died young of a fever and how her ghost still haunts the streets of Dublin where she plied her trade.
The song is extremely popular in Ireland and elsewhere and is the unofficial anthem of Dublin. Almost every Irish artist has recorded ‘Molly Malone’ at some time including The Dubliners and Sinead O’Connor. A statue of Molly Malone designed by Jeanne Rynhart was erected on Grafton St, Dublin in 1988 during the Millennium celebration of the founding of Dublin, declaring 13 June as Molly Malone Day. The statue was temporarily placed outside the Dublin Tourist Office on Suffolk Street. It is expected to be returned to its original location in late 2017.
During the Millennium celebrations on 28 January 1988 it was announced that the baptismal and death records of Molly Malone were found in the archives of the demolished John’s Church in Fishamble Street. The records indicate that one Mary Mallone, daughter of Robert was baptised in St John’s on this date in 1663. A death record in the same name puts her death on 13 June 1699. As Molly is a variation of Mary, this would seem to be our Molly. But both Mallone and Mary were very popular names in Ireland during this time, so this cannot be looked at as definitive proof.
Though it is said that the song was written not long after Molly’s death, there is no version of the song published before 1850 and it has not been included in many collections of Irish ballads. The first publication with music seems to be in Boston in 1876 where it is listed as a college song. Far from a ‘traditional’ Irish song.
Though the historical facts behind the myth of Molly Malone are sparse, she still remains popular to this day. Her statue is one of the most photographed in Dublin and due to the increase in touristy foot traffic, and their penchant for being ‘hands’, the statue’s cleavage has been groped repeatedly recently. Enough so that its bronze hue has begun to wear off on the bosom.