Singing About Molly Malone

When you visit Dublin, you will find Molly Malone is the most talked about woman in the city. They mention her at the Irish Rock 'n’ Roll Museum and on Sandemans’ New Dublin free walking tour. They talk about her on the Dublin by Night Tour. There is even a statue of her on Suffolk Street in Dublin City, but who is Molly Malone?  Is she a factual person or just a fictional character in a song?

The popular Irish song, Molly Malone, also known as Cockles and Mussels, is a story about an attractive woman named Molly Malone. In the song, Molly walked the streets of Dublin, continuing the family trade of selling fish from her wheelbarrow and singing as she went. She died of a fever and it is said her ghost haunts the city to this day.

She has been linked to origin stories from England, Scotland, and the United States. Several accounts have been told about a Molly or Mary Malone born in Dublin in the 17th century. One story speaks of a Mary Malone baptized and buried at St. John’s Church on Suffolk Street, but many say she never existed. Molly became an urban legend. It is even claimed if you rub her cleavage, it will bring you good luck. In typical Irish fashion, they have given her a few nicknames, the tart with the cart, the dolly with the trolley, and the dish with the fish.

Even though there doesn’t seem to be definitive evidence that Molly Malone was an actual person, in 1988 they erected a bronze statue in her honor. The statue has since been voted Ireland’s most popular landmark. The existence of Molly Malone may never be resolved, but the song is a standard sung in sports arenas, concert halls and pubs throughout Ireland. Even featured in movies and television shows. It has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin and has been covered by popular Irish performers, the Dubliners, Sinead O’Connor and the group U2.

Lyrics to Molly Malone

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, alive, oh!”

Alive, alive, oh,

Alive, alive, oh,

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”.

She was a fishmonger,

But sure 'twas no wonder,

So were her father and mother before,

And they all wheeled their barrows,

Through 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.

Now her ghost wheels her barrow,

Through streets broad and narrow,

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”


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