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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Molly singing a different tune

Grainne Cunningham

Smears against our Molly Malone may have its roots in an 18th-century songbook, which has turned up in Wales.

When Dubliners dubbed the statue at the bottom of Grafton Street "the tart with the cart", it was widely understood as a reference to her unproven reputation as a lady of the night.

Now a book of songs, uncovered in the Welsh village of Hay-on-Wye, which is situated on the border with England, could provide the key to the centuries-old slandering of the heroine of Dublin's unofficial anthem.

In the older version of 'Molly Malone', the balladeer ends with "Och! I'll roar and I'll groan, My sweet Molly Malone, Till I'm bone of your bone, and asleep in your bed."

Frank McGee, of Dublin Tourism, said the earlier song might finally explain the speculation about the fishseller's character.

"I could never figure out before this why she had a reputation as a prostitute," he said.

But despite being presented as a lovely girl, who sold cockles and mussels, Molly could never shake off the rumour and innuendo about her late-night activities.

"I don't believe a word of it," Mr McGee said, referring to the singer's longings to be in Molly's bed. He said it was clear from the wording of the song that the writer had drink taken.

"This song might explain the myth that she was a lady of the night, but I believe she was a fictional person. But at least it gets us talking about Dublin and shows once again that we are not afraid to laugh at ourselves," he said.

The book in which the song was uncovered was recently bought by Anne Brichto, of Addyman Books in Hay-on-Wye and dates from 1790, while the 'cockles and mussels' version we all know so well was first published in the USA in 1883.

Irish Independent

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