Sunday, 12 October 2008

Molly 2

I visited little Molly again this weekend who is at home now in a house turned upside-down and made almost unrecognisable with baby activity. There was a steady procession of visitors dropping by to say hello and bring gifts and although she was opening her eyes now and again she was totally ambivalent about all of the fuss and despite being passed around maintained her dignity throughout. How confusing this must be for a newborn baby after nine months of solitary confinement to suddenly be the centre of attention like this. I can only imagine that it is slightly similar to the disorientating experience of arriving in Piraeus at eleven o’clock at night after twelve hours of travelling by train, plane and automobile.

She is a lovely baby and is well suited to her name. Molly is of Irish origin and is a form of Mary, which means ‘star of the sea’ and is an old fashioned title for the Blessed Virgin Mary. More specifically the origin is from the Gaelic version of the name, Maeili, which means the delightful ‘Wished-for child’. Molly is also used as a derivation of the names Margaret, Marian and Maureen, so as Molly Violet she carries the names of both of her great-grandmothers (what a relief!) The Star of the Sea is a translation of the Latin Stella Maris and the Virgin Mary is believed to intercede as a guide and protector to seafarers and this led to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, being named as patroness of the Catholic missions to seafarers, the Apostleship of the Sea, and to many coastal churches being named Stella Maris or Mary, Star of the Sea.

The name has been in use since the Middle Ages but at some point it became associated with being the girlfriend of a pirate, which made the use uncommon. Even though it is now revived it is still not that widely used and in 2007, the name Molly was ranked number ninety-seven in popularity. The three most popular names were Grace, Ruby and Olivia. It is interesting how popularity of names goes in cycles, when I was at school a lot of boys were called David, Stephen and Paul and a lot of girls were named Susan, Julie and Jane.

Our Molly is Molly Petcher and that is very similar to the name Molly Pitcher, which was a nickname given to a girl who loved a man who fought in the American War of Independence. Molly Pitcher is a piece of folklore that was inspired by the actions of of real women who carried water to men on the battlefield during the war. This water was not for drinking, as is popularly believed, but for swabbing the cannons.

There are some musical connections to the name Molly. The song 'Molly Malone' is popular in Ireland, where it is considered to be an unofficial Irish national anthem and is always sung at Irish international rugby matches. Molly was a Swedish band that played a mix of Irish folk music with ska and oi and Molly dancing is an ancient tradition from the depths of East Anglia, practised by the locals and passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth alone. It was once widely observed in fenland villages, but now only a few hold the ancient secrets (thank goodness).

A famous Molly was Margaret Brown widely known Molly Brown, who was an American socialite, philanthropist, and activist who became famous as one of the survivors of the sinking of the Titanic and she became known after her death as the Unsinkable Molly Brown.

This is a bit weird but a Molly house is an archaic English term for a tavern or private room where strange men meet and were a precursor to the modern gay bar. Patrons of Molly houses were called ‘Mollies’ and often dressed in women's clothing, took on female personae, and affected effeminate mannerisms and speech.

This is more interesting. Molly was a famous scientific experiment and was one of two ewes (the other was Polly) who were the first mammals to be successfully cloned from an adult somatic cell and to be transgenic animals at the same time. This is not to be confused with Dolly the Sheep which was the first animal to be successfully cloned from an adult somatic cell where there was no genetic manipulation carried. Molly and Polly, like Dolly were cloned at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland and in creating Polly and Molly, scientists injected into their DNA a new gene selected to be of a therapeutic value to Humans to demonstrate the potential of such DNA technology combined with Animal Cloning to produce pharmacological and therapeutic proteins with the potential to treat to treat human diseases.

I don’t think Sally took any of these things into consideration when she selected the name, when I asked her she said she choose it because she liked it and that is as good a reason as any.

Sally with great uncle Richard!

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