Who Is Molly Malone?

On my recent trip to Ireland, Molly Malone was the most talked about woman in Dublin. They mentioned her on the Irish Rock n’ Roll Museum tour and again on Sandemans’ New Dublin free walking tour. They talk about her on the Dublin by Night Tour and there is even a statue of her on Grafton and Suffolk Street in Dublin City, but who is Molly Malone?  Is she a real person or just a fictional character in a song?

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

Several legends have been told about a Molly or Mary Malone who was born in Dublin in the 17th century. One such disputed story speaks of a Mary Malone who was baptized and buried at St. John’s Church on Suffolk Street but many say never existed. This is where the story gets interesting because even though there doesn’t seem to be definitive evidence that Molly Malone was a real person, in 1988 a statue was erected in her honor. The statue has since been voted as Ireland’s most popular landmark.

The story of Molly Malone may never be resolved but the song is a standard one sang in sports arenas, concert halls and pubs throughout Ireland and is featured in popular 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 womder,

So were her father and mother before,

And they 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!”


#mollymalone #dublin


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