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The Molly Malone statue in Grafton Street was unveiled by then Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Ben Briscoe during the 1988 Dublin Millennium celebrations, declaring 13 June as Molly Malone Day.
The song tells the fictional tale of a fishmonger who plied her trade on the streets of Dublin, but who died young, of a fever. In the late 20th century a legend grew up that there was a historical Molly, who lived in the 17th century. She is typically represented as a hawker by day and part-time prostitute by night. In contrast she has also been portrayed as one of the few chaste female street-hawkers of her day. However, there is no evidence that the song is based on a real woman, of the 17th century or at any other time. The name "Molly" originated as a familiar version of the names Mary and Margaret. While many such "Molly" Malones were born in Dublin over the centuries, no evidence connects any of them to the events in the song. Nevertheless, 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 1883, when it was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 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. According to Siobhán Marie Kilfeather the song is from the music hall style of the period, and while one cannot wholly dismiss the possibility that it is "based on an older folk song", "neither melody nor words bear any relationship to the Irish tradition of street ballads." She describes the story of the historical Molly as "nonsense". The song is in a familiar tragi-comic mode popular in this period, probably influenced by earlier songs with a similar theme, such as Percy Montrose's "My Darling Clementine", which was written circa 1880.
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." However, 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 The Edinburgh literary journal that year with the title "Molly Malone".
Artists who have recorded versions of Molly Malone include Heino, U2, The Saturdays, Danny Kaye, Frank Harte, Sinéad O'Connor, Johnny Logan, Ian McCulloch and Paul Harrington. However the best-known version is by The Dubliners. Operatic baritone Bryn Terfel has recorded a highly operatic version of the tune, sung in a somewhat upbeat fashion.
A Russian-language cover version of Molly Malone titled Душа моя, Молли (Du'sha moya, Molly - "Molly, my soul") was recorded by the Russian Celtic folk rock band Tintal. In the Russian lyrics, Molly sold trout rather than "cockles and mussels" and died of tuberculosis.
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The song is featured in The Premature Burial, a 1962 film by Roger Corman, based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe. Within the diegesis, the melody sets off a nervous reaction in the protagonist, who associates it with the horror of being buried alive. The melody also recurs throughout the film's incidental music.
The song was also featured in the movie A Clockwork Orange.
Pieces of the song also appear in the 1945 movie A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and is quoted in the book of the same title by Betty Smith.
The song was sung on M*A*S*H (Season 10) episode "That's Show Biz".
A variation of the song is usually sung just after kick-off by fans of Doncaster Rovers Football Club.
Molly is commemorated in a statue designed by Jeanne Rynhart, erected to celebrate the city's first millennium in 1988. Placed at the bottom of Grafton Street in Dublin, this statue is known colloquially as "The Tart With The Cart", "The Dish With The Fish", "The Trollop With The Scallop(s)", "The Dolly With the Trolley", and "The Flirt in the Skirt". The statue portrays Molly as a busty young woman in seventeenth-century dress. Her low-cut dress and large breasts were justified on the grounds that as "women breastfed publicly in Molly's time, breasts were popped out all over the place."  The statue has since been removed and kept in storage to make way for the new Luas tracks. It is currently planned to be placed outside the Failte Ireland tourism office on St Andrew's Street from early 2015.
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'Molly Malone' is best associated with the Dublin GAA teams and Bohemian F.C., an association football club who are based on the north side of the city. In the 2000s the song was adopted by Leinster Rugby and it has become their Anthem.
The song is sung each year at the Start of the Women's Mini-Marathon in Dublin on Bank Holiday Monday in June, where 50,000 women run through the streets of Dublin.
The song is also sung at the start of the women's race at the Liffey Swim. The event usually takes place on the first or second Saturday in September and is over 2.5 kilometres long. Swimmers don't wear wetsuits and the event works on a handicap time system.
Reading F.C. supporters sing the song, changing the name of Molly Malone to Kylie Minogue, and replacing the last line with "Singing" followed by the hook line of one of Minogue's hit songs. Initially I Should Be So Lucky was used, but in recent years this has been replaced by one of her more recent hits.
King's Scholars Rugby Football Club, of Stranmillis University College, Belfast, adopted the song as their official anthem in the 1930s. The team chant the song in their post-match huddle at the end of every game, with the change of the lyrics 'cockles and muscles, alive, alive oh!' to 'Scholars! Scholars! Scholars!'
Londoners adapt the song for their own needs often in a light vein, the major change being the lines:
A similar version of the Bohemian FC chant is also sung by Gillingham (Kent) Football Club supporters, replacing the last line with
It is one of the chants that Doncaster Rovers fans have used since the early 1970s, the last line being
It is always sung at the lunches and dinners of London's '07 Club, which was founded in 1907 by staff of the London County Council.
Singer Alan Sherman also did a parody of the tune in the medly "Shticks of One and a Half a Dozen of the Other" which appeared on the album My Son, the Celebrity. In his version Molly has trouble with her wheelbarrow because she is very overweight.
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