Molly Malone

Sweet Molly Malone

The song Molly Malone is not just the 'anthem' of Dublin and the city's sports supporters. It has become famous throughout the world.

It tells of a Dublin long gone, when street vendors plied their trade from a barrow having collected their produce from the early morning markets.

In Molly's case (had she lived) she would have selected her cockles and mussels from the bounty landed at the city's quayside each morning, placed them in baskets on her barrow, and set off on her rounds. She would probably have followed specific routes on certain days, and her customers would have listened out for the calls that announced her arrival in their locality.

There is no evidence to suggest that Molly was a real person. Countless people, including academics and genealogists, have tried to find proof of her existence. None has been found.

Her bronze statue was created by sculptor Jeanne Rynhart of Glengarrif, Co Cork, whose work includes the equally famous statue on Cobh quayside depicting Annie Moore and her two brothers setting sail for America.

Molly on the move

Having been at the busy junction of Nassau Street, Suffolk Street and the pedestrianised shopping mecca of Grafton Street since 1988, Molly found herself in the way of a new cross-river tram (luas) route and, in April 2014, she had to pack up her barrow.

The opportunity was taken to give her some tender loving care from specialist bronze restorers and on Friday 18 July she wheeled her wares into a new temporary spot (see above) outside the city's Tourist Office in St Andrew's Church, Suffolk Street, about 150 yards away from her old home.

She'll be staying there until 2017, before being relocated as a permanent resident of Grafton Street.

Hunting for Molly in 1901

There's no evidence that Molly was anything other than a figment of the songwriter's imagination. But just for the sake of idle curiosity and a bit of harmless fun, I took a rummage in the 1901 census (this is the oldest surviving complete Irish census) and found two Molly Malones listed.

What's immediately obvious is that neither of these two girls lived in Dublin. One is from rural county Clare, the other from the city of Limerick.

Nor is there any hint that either is the daughter of a fish-monger. The first girl is the second daughter of a Grocer. The other girl is a visitor to the household of a labouring family.

Of course, it's perfectly possible that 'our' Molly Malone had already succumbed to her fever by 1901...

Sweet Molly Malone

In Dublin's fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first laid 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.
And sure t'was no wonder.
For so was 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 the streets broad and narrow
Crying "Cockles and Mussels,
Alive, alive - oh".