DESCRIPTION: Singer tells of meeting sweet Molly Malone in Dublin, where she sold shellfish from a barrow; her parents were also fishmongers. She dies of a fever; now her ghost wheels the barrow. Chorus: "Singing 'Cockles and mussels, alive, alive-o"
EARLIEST DATE: 1947 (Hoagland; Fireside Book of Folk Songs)
KEYWORDS: death food worker ghost disease commerce
FOUND IN: US Ireland
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Fireside, p. 22, "Cockles and Mussels" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 124, "Molly Malone" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), p. 256, "Cockles and Mussels" (1 text)
Frank Harte _Songs of Dublin_, second edition, Ossian, 1993, p. 12, "Molly Malone" (1 text, 1 tune)
Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 73, "Cockles and Mussels" (1 text, 1 tune)
Pete Seeger, "Molly Malone" (on PeteSeeger32)
NLScotland, L.C.Fol.70(82a), "Cockles and Mussels. Aliv, O" (sic.), Poet's Box (Dundee), c. 1890
cf. "The Walnut Girl" (subject)
NOTES: We don't have "peddler" as a keyword -- pity. Meanwhile, I believe this started out as a Tin Pan Alley song? For better or for worse, it seems to have entered tradition -- at least, at every Irish gig I've played, some drunk asks for it. - PJS
Although the Poet's Box broadside is the earliest version I've found, it can hardly be the original; incredibly badly printed (Apart from the title, it can't decide if Miss Malone is Molly or "Melly," and the chorus runs "Alive, alive, O! alive, alive O! Crying Cockles and! alive, alive, O!"), and no tune is indicated. It has to be derivative.
The only source I've ever seen with a listed author was Robert Gogan's 130 Great Irish Ballads, which says that there is a London printing from 1884 calling it a comic song and attributing it to James Yorkston. I know nothing else about Yorkston.
Gogan also notes that there is actually a statue of Molly Malone in Dublin. Wish I knew who had put the thing up! - RBW
Last updated in version 4.0
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.