If you have ever been to Dublin city, you must have heard of Molly Malone. This legendary character has her roots in the history and culture of Ireland.
You can find references to Malone in several folk songs. She is one of the most famous female characters in the history and folklore of Ireland. However, the story of her origin and existence has always been a mystery.
“The song is so popular that people acknowledge it as the unofficial anthem of Dublin”
The traditional Irish ballad, “In Dublin’s Fair City”, immortalized Molly Malone. In the song, we find her walking the streets of Dublin selling ‘Cockles and Mussels.’ The song is so popular that people acknowledge it as the unofficial anthem of Dublin, Ireland. However, there is no evidence that it existed prior to the 19th century.
Who was Molly Malone?
The Irish ballad tells us that Molly Malone was a young fishmonger. She walked the streets of Dublin to sell her yields from her cart. She came from a family of fishmongers and represented the working-class.
“Her soul still haunts the streets of the city, crying ‘Cockles and Mussels”
But her story ends with a tragic notion. She perished after suffering from fever, presumably during the Cholera outbreak in Dublin. But, her soul still haunts the streets of the city, crying ‘Cockles and Mussels’ as she did while she was alive.
Though there is little evidence of whether the song is based on the life of a real woman, people believe that she walked the earth during the 17th century. A legend says that she was a hawker by the day and a prostitute by night. The name “Molly” perhaps originated from Mary Malone or Margaret Malone.
How Did Malone Become an International Figure?
She became an internationally famed urban legend by the end of the 20th century. In 1988, the Dublin Millennium Commission stated that they found new evidence about Molly Malone. They claimed that she lived in the city and died on the 13th of June 1699. Later, the commission proclaimed 13th June as Molly Malone Day to commemorate Dublin’s favourite fictional character.
The Irish sculptor, Jeanne Rynhart created a beautiful bronze statue of Molly Malone. On 13th June 1988 during the Dublin Millennium Celebrations, the commission revealed the sculpture. The statue depicts Malone as a beautiful lady wearing a traditional 17th-century Irish dress.
“Her buxom sculpture is one of the famous tourist attractions in Dublin”
She wears a slightly low-cut blouse resembling the ones worn by working girls at that time. Her buxom sculpture is one of the famous tourist attractions in Dublin, along with the well-known statues commemorating the Irish Famine.
The local people call the statue “The Tart with the Cart” hinting at the rumored part-time occupation of Malone as a harlot. The local people believe that touching the breasts of Molly Malone brings you good luck. The statue of Molly Mallon was erected initially on Grafton Street. Later, it was moved to Suffolk Street in 2014 to make space for the Luas tram system extension.
Most people believe that Malone was alive during the 17th century. However, she received international popularity almost 200 years later by the famous song titled “Molly Malone”.
James Yorkston of Edinburgh wrote and composed the song. Francis Brothers and Day, in London, published the song. Later, in 2010, literature researchers came across a few new references of her.
“The song tells a story where a person is yearning for the intimate company of Sweet Molly Malone”
We can find a mention of Malone in a copy of “Apollo’s medley” dating back to 1790. The song tells a story where a person is yearning for the intimate company of Sweet Molly Malone. Later, people found some references of Molly Malone in a few other songs where she was referred to as “Mary Malone” and “Sweet Mistress Malone” alternately.
An American Song, “Meet Me Miss Molly Malone,” published in 1840 also mentions Malone a few times. Molly Malone has inspired several kinds of live music since then. You may also find an Irish Pub or two named after this famous fictional character.
Malone and The Great Famine of Ireland
A famine affected Ireland between 1845 and 1852. The potato blight destroyed the potato crop of Ireland. A wave of mass starvation and disease washed through the country. “Molly Malone and San Patricios,” a book authored by Michael Hogan, also presents the story of Malone in the background of the Great Famine.
“Molly Malone, a golden-eyed Doberman, accompanied the soldiers with unquestionable loyalty”
The story is about Kevin Dillon. He was tormented by hunger during the Irish Famine. He fled from Ireland and enrolled himself in the American Army. Later, Kevin and his friends joined John Riley of the St. Patrick’s Battalion.
Molly Malone, a golden-eyed Doberman, accompanied the soldiers with unquestionable loyalty and courage. She followed the warriors through the deadliest battles to the gallows.
The Bottom Line
The story of Molly Malone is synonymous with authentic Irish history. Whether a true story or legendary folklore, the character resides in the heart of Ireland. Hundreds of people from across the globe still gather to see her statue in the street and her bosoms to bring luck into their lives.
Slán go fóill