Note: the Molly Malone statue has been temporarily moved to nearby Andrew Street, due to construction of a tram line. The monument is expected to be returned to Grafton Street before the end of 2017.
The sculpture of Molly Malone was designed by Jeanne Rynart and was unveiled during the 1988 Dublin Millennium celebrations by then Lord Mayor, Ben Briscoe.
In keeping with a tradition of using playful rhyming names for city monuments, locals affectionately refer to the statue as "the tart with the cart," "the dish with the fish," and "the trollop with the scallop."
Who Was Molly Malone?
The legend/tale of Molly Malone comes from the Dublin anthem Molly Malone, also known as Cockles and Mussels or In Dublin's Fair City.
In Dublin’s fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”
However, there is no evidence that Molly ever existed. One legend depicts her a fishmonger who sold on the streets of Dublin and died young of fever.
While the song does not suggest it, a popular legend has grown that Molly Malone was a street trader by day, but a prostitute by night. Indeed, the Molly Malone statue wears a low-cut dress, displaying prominent cleavage while pushing her wheelbarrow of fish.
The prominent breasts caused controversy when the statue was unveiled. Creator Rhynhart denied that the revealing dress was designed to make the character look like a sex worker. Rather, she claimed the statue was representative of women of that era, who breastfed children in public.
History of the Song
The song upon which her legend is based was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts U.S.A. in 1883. It was later published in London in 1884 as a work of James Yorkston of Edinburgh.
Verses from the song appeared in the 1945 movie A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and the song was featured in A Clockwork Orange and Season 10 of M.A.S.H.
Molly Malone Statue. Image by Phil Guest.