Father Mathew Bridge (Dublin)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
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Coordinate 53.345566, -6.275773
Adm. div. Dublin
Vicinity Across River Liffey, connecting Bridge Street Upper and Church Street
Type Thoroughfare
Interest Local tradition
Status Extant
First Record 1577
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Father Mathew Bridge, formerly known as Dublin Bridge, whence Little John shot an arrow that landed on a hillock on Oxmantown Green, according to Holinshed's Chronicles (1577)
John Speed's map of Dublin, 1610; reprinted 1896 / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Until a picture of the old bridge is unearthed: the current Father Mathew Bridge over Dublin's River Liffey / Photo by Barcex, via Wikipedia, under CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-06-02. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2022-05-27.

According to the first edition of Holinshed's Chronicles (1577), Little John shot an arrow, standing on Father Mathew Bridge, then known as Dublin Bridge. The arrow landed on a hillock on Oxmantown Green, which hillock was accordingly named Little John's Shot

The chronicle has Little John sailing to Ireland and staying at Dublin for a few days. The locals very much wanted to see an example of his prowess with the longbow. He shot his arrow an unknown but considerable distance. However, this feat made his presence known to the authorities, and Little John had to leave Ireland for Scotland (see 1577 Allusion below). The Dublin Bridge on which he was believed to have stood when shooting his arrow was a stone bridge built by the Dominicans in 1428. With four bridges and a tower at either end, it was lined with housing, shops etc., including a chapel and an inn. A new bridge, the Whitworth Bridge, was built in its place in 1816-18 and renamed Father Mathew Bridge 1938.[1]

For the place where the arrow was said to have landed, see the page on Little John's Shot (Dublin).


1577 - Holinshed, Raphael - Chronicles (5)

The names of the fieldes adioyning to Dubline.
SAint [sic] Stephens greene.
Hoggyng greene.
The Steyne.
Ostmantowne greene. In the further ende of this field is there a hole, commonly termed Scald brothers hole, a Laberinth reachyng two large myles vnder the earth. This hole was in olde tyme frequented by a notorious théefe named scaldebrother, wherin he would hyde all the bag and baggage he could pilfer. The varlet was so swifte on foote, as he hath eftsoones outrún the swiftest and lustiest yong men in all Ostmantowne, maugre theyr heds, bearing a potte or a panne of theyrs on his shoulders, to his den. And now and then, in derision of such as pursued hym, he would take hys course vnder the gallowes, which standeth very nigh hys caue (a fitte signe for such an Inne) and so beyng shrowded within his lodge, he reckened himself cocksure, none beyng found at that time so hardy as would aduenture to entangle himselfe within so intricate a maze. But as the pitcher that goeth often to the water, commeth at length home broke: so this lusty youth would not surcease from open catchyng, forcible snatchyng, and priuy prowling, to time he was by certain gaping groomes that late in wayte for him, intercepted, fleeing towards his couch, hauyng vpon his apprehension no more wrong done hym, then that he was not sooner hanged on that gallowes, through which in his youth & iollitie he was wont to run. There standeth in Ostmantowne greene, an hillocke named little John hys shot. The occasion procéeded of this.
 In the yere 1189. there ranged thrée robbers and outlawes in England, among which Robert hoode and little Iohn were chiefetaines, of all théefes doubtlesse the most courteous. Robert hoode beyng betrayed at a Noonry in Scotland called Bricklies, the remnaunt of the crue was scattered, and euery man forced to shift for himselfe. Wherupõ little Iohn was fayne to flie the realme, by sayling into Ireland, where he soiourned for a few dayes at Dubline. The citizens beyng done to vnderstand, the wanderyng outcast to be an excellent archer, requested hym hartily to trie how far he could shoote at randone. Who yeldyng to their behest, stoode on the bridge of Dublin, and shotte to that mole hill, leauyng behynde him a monument, rather by his posteritie to be woondered, then possibly by any man liuyng to be counterscored. But as the repayre of so notorious a champion, to any countrey, would soone be published, so his abode could not be long concealed: and therefore, to eschew the daunger of lawes, he fled into Scotland, where he dyed at a towne or Village called Morany. Gerardus Mercator, in his Cosmographye affirmeth, that in the same towne the bones of an huge and mighty man are kept, which was called little Iohn, amõg which bones, ye huckle bone or hipbone was of such largenesse, as witnesseth Hector Boethius, yt he thrust his arme through ye hole therof. And the same bone beyng suted to the other partes of his body, did argue the man to haue bene 14. foote long, which was a prety length for a little Iohn. Whereby appeareth, that he was called little Iohn ironically lyke as we terme him an honest man, whom we take for a Knaue in grayne. [...][2]



Also see


  1. Phillips, M.; Hamilton, A. 'Project History of Dublin’s River Liffey Bridges', Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, vol. 156, Bridge Engineering, Issue BE4 (2003), pp. 161-79, see p. 162.
  2. Holinshed, Raphael: [Wolfe, Reyner]; [Harrison, William]; [Stanyhurst, Richard]. The Firste volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande. Conteyning, the description and Chronicles of England, from the first inhabiting vnto the conquest. The description and Chronicles of Scotland, from the first originall of the Scottes nation, till the yeare of our Lorde. 1571. The description and Chronicles of Yrelande, likewise from the firste originall of that nation, vntill the yeare. 1547 (London, [1577]), , vol. III, ¶ A Treatise contayning a playne and perfect Description of Irelande, with an Introduction, to the better vnderstanding of the Hystories, appartayning to that Islande: compyled by Richard Stanyhurst, and written to the Ryght Honorable, Syr Henry Sydney Knight, Lorde Deputie of Irelande, Lorde president of Wales, Knight of the most noble order of the Garter, and one of hir Maiesties priuie Counsell within hir realme of England; The names of the ciuities, borroughes and hauen townes in Irelande. Cap. 3, leaf 12v. The passages in italics here are in Roman type in the printed text, body text being in Black Letter. IRHB's brackets