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Date: 18/07/10

A (Fish) Broth Of A Girl She Was

One from JudgeCo™'s Department Of Minor Serendipity:

No sooner do I mention the veteran Irish broadcaster Arthur Murphy here, than a news story comes through that one of Ireland's (and, most particularly, Dublin's) iconic figures may not have been what she has been portrayed as being.

For Sweet Molly Malone may not have simply traded in the shallow waters of the fishmongery trade, and that the appellation "Tart With A Cart" applied to her by the coarse wits of Dublin's fair city may have been rather nearer to the truth.

An earlier version of the famous song has been found, dating from the late eighteenth century, and contains such lines as:

"Och! I'll roar and I'll groan, My sweet Molly Malone,
Till I'm bone of your bone, And asleep in your bed."

This would suggest that the ould girl sold more than just the tails of cod and skate, and that any cockles and mussels (conspicuous by their total absence from the newly-rediscovered version) may well have been, shall we say, figurative.

In this reporting of the latest developments, I particularly enjoyed the deeply ironic comment of the Chief Executive of Dublin Tourism, one Frank Magee:

"Everyone knows that it is hard to believe that such activities, if they took place in Dublin in the late 17th century, were of a mercenary nature. The author admits to having imbibed drink, which is another unusual characteristic for a Dubliner, and so I believe his recollection of his night with Molly may have been clouded by alcohol. I believe that there is no evidence to suggest that Molly was anything other than a lady of virtue, who was smitten by the writer and may have shared her bed with him."

But what has this to do with Arthur Murphy? Well, back in 1959 he recorded a sort-of rock'n'roll take on the version of the song which has become most familiar to us today. It was released in Ireland and subsequently on Parlophone in the UK (R4523 was the catalogue number, it was the 'B'-side to Murphy's recording of Sixteen Candles, and mint-condition copies of the 45rpm and 78rpm versions are judged to be worth about 10 a throw). Moreover, when Murphy was doing his weekend stints on Radio City's Downtown show in the mid 1970s, he did spin that particular track once or twice. Which is how I came to know about it in the first place.

Which gives me an excuse to feed you a short extract of this forgotten gem. To hear it, click on the picture of Arthur below (courtesy of Brian Jones' Radio City tribute site) showing him with an alarm clock (*), as he was the first DJ to be heard on the station just after 06:00 on 21st October 1974.

Photo of DJ Arthur Murphy, 1974

(*) No it isn't - it's a pair of headphones.