Molly Malone

17th English Folk Song & Nursery Rhyme

In Dublin's fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
And she wheeled her wheel barrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying "Cockles and mussels alive, alive oh!"

 

Chorus:
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 were her mother and father before
They wheeled their wheel barrow
Through the streets broad and narrow
Crying "Cockles and mussels alive, alive oh!"

Chorus

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!"

Chorus

The song is not recorded earlier than 1876, when it was published in Boston, Massachusetts. The song's placement in the section of the book entitled "Songs from English and German Universities" suggests a British origin. It was also published by Francis Brothers and Day in London in 1884 as a work written and composed by James Yorkston, of Edinburgh, with music arranged by Edmund Forman. The London edition states that it was reprinted by permission of Kohler and Son of Edinburgh, implying that the first edition was in Scotland, though no copies of it have been located. And according to Siobhán Marie Kilfeather the song is from the music hall style of the period, and while one cannot wholly dismiss the possibility that it is "based on an older folk song", "neither melody nor words bear any relationship to the Irish tradition of street ballads." However obscure its origins, set in Dublin, Ireland it has become the unofficial anthem of the city!