Molly Malone

TITLE: Molly Malone
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: death, food, worker, ghost, disease, commerce
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: The famous cockles and mussels version was first published in the United States in 1883, attributed to James Yorkston.

Molly MaloneThe Dublin wits who dubbed the statue of Molly Malone, “the tart with the cart”, as soon as she appeared on their streets, may not have been far off the mark.

A tiny 18th-century book has turned up in Hay-on-Wye containing the earliest known version [a bawdy version] of Sweet Molly Malone, almost a century older than Dublin’s unofficial anthem.

The famous cockles and mussels version was first published in the United States in 1883, attributed to James Yorkston. However, the little book just acquired by Anne Brichto, of Addyman Books in Hay-on-Wye, dates from about 1790 and suggests that the song is even older. The frontispiece of Apollo’s Medley, printed in Doncaster, boasts that it contains “the most popular and admired songs sung at the Theatre Royal and other public places of amusement”. As she flicked through it, Brichto was amazed to find Molly Malone nestling seductively on page 78.

 The kitschy statue by Jeanne Rynhart, showing Molly in an improbably grand scoop-necked gown with – as purists have pointed out – a handcart rather than a wheelbarrow, was installed at the foot of Grafton Street to celebrate Dublin’s millennium in 1988. Tourists queueing to photograph one another beside her regularly spill out into the traffic.

Many attempts have been made to prove she was a genuine historical figure, but author, genealogist and historian Sean Murphy is convinced Molly is merely an ever-evolving urban legend.  (Read the full article Tart With a Cart in the UK’s Gaurdian)

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Cockles and Mussels
  • In Dublin’s Fair City

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)

YOUTUBE VIDEO: 

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Sinead O’Connor

Molly Malone

In Dublin’s Fair city, where the girls are so pretty
I set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheel’d her wheel barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive o!
Alive, alive O!, alive, alive O!
Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive O!

She was a fishmonger, but sure ’twas no wonder
For so were her father and mother before
And they each wheel’d their barrow
through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive o!
Alive, alive O!, alive, alive O!
Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive O!

She died of a fever and no one could save her
And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone
But her ghost wheels her barrow,
through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive o!
Alive, alive O!, alive, alive O!
Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive O!
Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive O!

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books

SONGBOOKS:

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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