Field, William (1843–1935), nationalist politician and businessman, was born in Blackrock, Co. Dublin, son of John Field, victualler, and Grace Field (née Byrne). His father was the secretary of the Blackrock branch of the Young Irelanders' Confederation, and had his house searched at the time of the 1848 rising. Field became politically active in the Amnesty Association which campaigned for the release of Fenian prisoners after the 1867 rising. To some extent this was an IRB front, and Field is believed to have maintained contact with the IRB until about 1900, though it is not known if he was a member. He wrote and acted in temperance plays at the Blackrock Temperance Reading Room, and was a lifelong member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul. In 1874 he was present at the nationalist hall in Newtownpark Avenue, Blackrock, when Parnell (qv) made his first speech as home rule candidate for Co. Dublin. In the 1870s Field adopted the style of dress which he maintained for the rest of his life – shoulder-length hair, a black broad-brimmed hat, and a long black coat. This eccentric appearance made him instantly recognisable and frequently caricatured.
Field inherited the family's victualler business and over time developed it into the largest of its kind in Dublin, with several shops. He was assisted in this by two brothers and one sister; like Field, none of them married. In later years Miss Field handled most of the day-to-day running of the business. Field helped to found the Dublin Victuallers' Association and the Irish Stockowners' and Cattle Traders' Association, which he chaired from the 1880s. For much of the 1890s he was also chairman of the Meat Trade Federation; he was active in its foundation and the establishment of the Meat Trades Journal in 1888. He helped to bring about the establishment of the Royal Veterinary College of Ireland, serving as one of its governors.
Field took a leading role in nationalist registration activity in south Dublin at parliamentary and local level. In 1885 he sought the parliamentary nomination for Dublin South, but stepped down in favour of Parnell's preferred candidate, Sir Thomas Esmonde (qv). Field supported Parnell when the Irish parliamentary party split, and boasted that he had been the first on Kingstown pier to welcome Parnell after the events of Committee Room 15. After Parnell's death he chaired the Parnell commemoration committee, retaining the post until his own death.
In 1892 Field became Parnellite MP for the St Patrick's division of Dublin, defeating William Martin Murphy (qv). He sat on the board of the Irish Daily Independent in the late 1890s and served as treasurer of the GAA. He was active in the campaign against Irish overtaxation and served on the ‘recess committee’ which brought about the establishment of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction. In 1908 Field became first chairman of the Hibernian Fire and General Insurance Company.
Field presented himself as a ‘labour nationalist’ candidate, arguing that Irish workers and employers shared a common interest in Irish industrial development. He represented the Knights of the Plough, an agricultural labourers' union based in Athy, Co. Kildare, at the first two Irish Trade Union Congress annual meetings. From 1908 he chaired the Town Tenants' Association, which campaigned against urban landlords. He campaigned in parliament for the interests of Irish business, especially the meat and cattle trades. (This included opposition to inconvenient hygienic regulations, and he was accused of participating in a price-fixing local ‘meat ring’.) Ulysses, by James Joyce (qv), contains several references to a meeting of cattle traders where Field protested against the slaughter of infected cattle; he is described as ‘Hairy Iopas, that exploded volcano, the darling of all countries and the champion of his own’. Field was a lukewarm supporter of land nationalisation and campaigned for railway nationalisation, accusing railway companies of strangling Irish trade and industry by exorbitant charges. He published numerous pamphlets on economic topics.
In 1899 Field supervised the capture of Blackrock urban district council from the unionists under an extended local government franchise, and was elected to the new Dublin county council and to Dublin Port and Docks Board. He donated a site for a technical school to the township, serving as a governor for thirty years. From 1905 Field's political base came under threat from Labour and Sinn Féin. He participated in attempts to resolve the 1913–14 lockout, but was seen as too eccentric to carry much weight. In 1918 Field lost his parliamentary seat to Countess Markievicz (qv). He lost his seat on Dublin county council in June 1920, but remained on Blackrock UDC until its absorption by Dún Laoghaire in 1928. He retired from the Port and Docks Board in 1932. Field died on 29 April 1935 in St Michael's Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, after an illness lasting three years.