DOWNLOAD THE SONGSHEET
In 1988 the Dublin Millennium Commission endorsed claims about a Mary Malone who died on 13 June 1699, and proclaimed 13 June to be "Molly Malone day". 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.
A copy of Apollo's Medley, dating to around 1790, published in Doncaster and rediscovered in 2010, contains a song referring to "Sweet Molly Malone" on its page 78 – this ends with the line "Och! I'll roar and I'll groan, My sweet Molly Malone, Till I'm bone of your bone, And asleep in your bed." Other than this name and the fact that she lives in Howth near Dublin, this song bears no other resemblance to the familiar Molly Malone. The song was later reprinted in a collection entitled The Shamrock: A Collection of Irish Songs (1831) and was published in The Edinburgh Literary Journal that year with the title "Molly Malone".
Several elements of the song Molly Malone appear in several earlier songs. In addition to the earlier "Molly Malone" song discussed above, a character named "Molly Malone" appears in at least two other songs. The song, "Widow Malone," published as early as 1809, refers to the title character alternately as "Molly Malone," "Mary Malone" and "sweet mistress Malone". An American song entitled "Meet Me Miss Molly Malone" was published as early as 1840. The song, "Pat Corney's Account of Himself", published as early as 1826, begins with "Now it's show me that city where the girls are so pretty" and ends with "Crying oysters, and cockles, and Mussels for sale." During the 1800s, the expression "Dublin's fair city" was used regularly with reference to Dublin, and the phrase, "alive, alive O", is known to have been shouted by street vendors selling oysters, mussels, fish and eels.
****REVISED March 9, 2019 - SR****