Molly Malone statue Dublin Ireland

Molly Malone Statue: A Brief History [+ Updated Info]

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If you’re planning on a visit to Dublin then you’ll most likely find your way to a very popular spot for tourists: the Molly Malone statue.

If you’ve never heard of Molly Malone, keep reading. There’s a lot to learn. If you’re familiar, keep reading anyway…

You might learn something new here 😉

Molly Malone: Quick Facts

Molly Malone at Suffolk St. Dublin

The Molly Malone statue is of a 17th century woman (there’s some uncertainty about the actual dates) in a low-cut, frilly dress pushing a handcart. It may sound a bit basic to some, but it’s representative of life in Ireland hundreds of years ago.

The bronze statue was erected in 1988 by Irish sculptor Jeanne Rynhart as part of the Dublin Millennium celebrations. 

Aside from the statue itself, the location isn’t hard to overlook. It’s not far from other major attractions such as Trinity College and popular Grafton Street. On a busy day you’ll see a swarm of tourists vying to get a cheeky photo with her. 

Pro Tip: Get there early in the morning, and you’re likely to get more space for a photo op.

Who was Molly Malone?

Molly Malone Statue Dublin

The story goes a little something like this: sweet Molly Malone was an attractive fish vendor in the 1600s who sold cockles and mussels on the streets of Dublin.

Some also say that besides selling fish during the day, she was also a lady of the night (“the tart with the cart”).  And her ghost still roams the streets of Dublin’s fair city to this day. 

There are records of a few Molly Malones from that time in history. And one in particular that died in 1699 from a fever (likely cholera). The Dublin Millenium Commission endorsed the claim to this one. But it’s debatable. 

The unclear records and the myth about her ghost has caused much confusion and doubt. Many still wonder if she was a real person or just a myth in Irish folklore and song.

One thing is for sure: Molly Malone is a permanent fixture in Irish culture. Both her legend and statue represent working class heroes, and stand as a symbol of hardships overcome.

And would it really be true Irish folklore if it weren’t turned into a catchy song? (No. Definitely not.)

What About that Molly Malone Song?

If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Ireland, perhaps you’ve heard the tune yourself. 

There’s some uncertainty about the actual origins of the song. The first record of the lyrics were published in Boston in 1876 (the earliest date known). And then we see it again published in London in 1884, citing Scotsman James Yorkston as the composer. 

Some historians have said that the style of the song has a very Victorian, British, tragicomedy style to it that isn’t reminiscent of Irish ballads. 

But either way, it’s become an Irish staple at this point. You’ll hear it in Ireland, and you’ll hear it in Irish style pubs in the States (and probably elsewhere in the world too for that matter).

Numerous artists have made their own versions of the ballad in recent decades. The most popular version has by far been by the Irish folk band, The Dubliners. The song, titled “Cockles and Mussels” or simply “Molly Malone”, goes a little something like this:

You might hear this unofficial anthem of Dublin being sung at stag parties, sporting events, and by enthusiastic (albeit tipsy) bar-goers. (Although, I’ve had plenty of nights in Dublin and haven’t heard regular people singing it without the help of musicians playing it 🤷‍♀️)

Things to Do Near the Molly Malone Statue

The Molly Malone statue is located near many other popular attractions in Dublin. This works out great because honestly, you’ll see the statue, take a few pics, and then what?

Check out what else there is to do near the Molly Malone statue:

Trinity College

Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College Dublin Campus

Trinity College is one of the most visited sites in Dublin. A highly selective liberal arts college, it’s home to the famous ‘Old Library’ which houses the Book of Kells (a 9th century hand-crafted by monks book of the four gospels in the new testament). 

Besides the gorgeous library and all that lovely history, the buildings on campus are stunning. The architecture alone is worth checking out, but there’s a lot of great history to learn about the college.

The college has also had many notable alumni including Oscar Wilde, Edmund Burke, and Bram Stoker. There’s a lot to learn about this college; definitely worth checking out.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle Ireland
Dublin Castle Courtyard

Dublin Castle is an early thirteenth century fortress built by King John of England. Throughout the centuries, it’s been a military fortress, prison, court of law, treasury, and the former royal residence of the Viceroy of Ireland.

It’s now used as a special event venue, but visitors can still take guided or self-guided tours daily.

St. Stephen’s Green

St. Stephen's Green pond
St. Stephen's Green map
St. Stephen's Green Statue

St. Stephen’s Green is one of the best places in the city to enjoy urban nature. 

Like many attractions in Ireland, St. Stephen’s Green has a full history – from its design in the Victorian style and connection to Queen Victoria to its role in the Easter Rising of 1916. 

Today, the park is brimming with colorful flower beds, walking trails, rows of trees, and a decorative lake. It’s a lovely oasis after hours of touring around and very near attractions such as the popular shopping area on Grafton St.

Molly Malone Statue in Boston

Recently, a Molly Malone replica has been created and unveiled in Boston, MA.

It’s situated outside The Dubliner Pub across from Boston City Hall.

The Dubliner Pub is owned and operated by two Irish natives. One hails from Donegal, the other: Dublin. They had the idea to commission a recreation of the Molly Malone statue to add a bit more authenticity to their already true Irish pub.

It’s another great tourist attraction for Boston, a city that takes seriously its Irish heritage. It’s thought to be the only life size replica in the world.

Molly Malone FAQs

Why Is Molly Malone So Famous?

Molly is the part historical, part legendary figure celebrated in Dublin’s unofficial anthem, “Cockles and Mussels”. Her statue is a favorite among tourists and Dubliners alike, and you’re likely to hear the famous tune on a night out at the pubs.

Why Do People Touch the Molly Malone Statue?

The Molly Malone statue shows a busty woman in a very low cut gown, which symbolizes her presumed work as a call girl. Rumor has it that if you touch one or both of Molly Malone’s bronze breasts, it will attract good luck.

The statue is the beginning and ending spot for most walking tours in Dublin. As you might imagine, her bosom area has been touched frequently. So much so, that it’s been burnished to a bright sheen.

Why Is Molly Malone Called the “Tart with the Cart”? 

Her cleavage coupled with her reputation as a wheelbarrow-pushing fish vendor earned her the nickname of the  “tart with the cart”. The speculation that she also worked as a call girl at night was the basis of another nickname lovingly given to her by the locals: “dolly with a trolley”.

Why was the Molly Malone statue moved?

In 2013, the statue was relocated from Grafton Street to its current home on Suffolk St. The move was due to the construction of new train tracks for the Luas Cross City Works project.

City officials were concerned that there would be no safe place for tourists to stand near the statue during construction and once the train tracks were complete.

They were right, and her new location has proven to be an even better spot for people to take photographs.