The ballad Molly Malone (or Cockles and Mussels) is popular both with the Irish people and tourists as an easy, memorable song that is associated strongly with Dublin city. However, despite the song’s great fame, little is known about its musical origins, or the veracity behind the story it tells. The composer of the lyrics and music is not known and it is uncertain when the song originated, or even what period it is meant to depict.
Indeed, the only definite information that exists comes from the lyrics themselves, which tell us that Molly was an attractive young woman from a fishmonger background and that she too sold seafood, by wheeling a barrow through the streets of Dublin. She died of a fever – and now her ghost haunts the streets of Dublin.
Cockles and Mussels is regarded as being traditionally Irish yet its origins are not established. The song is also often grouped with Irish ballads yet its tones have a music hall resonance. This association, coupled with the fact, according to Sean Murphy, that the earliest, identified printed music dates to the late nineteenth century, could lead us to believe that in fact the song is a Victorian composition. There is also no evidence to prove that an Irish person was the composer or that the song originated in Ireland.
Now listen to the Ballad by famous Irish famous band ‘The Dubliners’