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An urban legend has grown up around the figure of the historical Molly, who has been presented variously as a hawker by day and part-time prostitute by night, or - in contrast - 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 who lived in the 17th century, or at any other time, despite claims that records of her birth and death have been located. The name "Molly" originated as a familiar version of the name and while many such "Molly's" were born in Dublin over the centuries, no evidence connects any of them to the events in the song, which was not recorded earlier than the early 1880s, when it was published as a work written and composed by James Yorkston, of Edinburgh. 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 Montross's "My Darling Clementine", which was written circa 1880.
Molly is commemorated in a statue designed by Jeanne Rynhart, placed at the bottom of Grafton Street in Dublin, erected to celebrate the city's first millennium in 1987; this statue is known colloquially as 'The Tart With The Cart', 'The Dish With The Fish' and 'The Trollop With The Scallops'.