Field, James (1768–1849), methodist leader in Cork, was born 6 April 1768, of poor parents who lived near Ballybay, Co. Monaghan; his father's name may have also been James. He had one brother, at least two sisters, and one stepbrother. He received little formal education, though the local minister lent him books, and when his mother died he was sent away at the age of 11 as a servant; at 16 he was apprenticed to a tradesman, and at the age of 25, a year after his marriage, he joined the Royal Irish Regiment of Artillery as a bombardier and was sent to Flanders. On its journey from Cove (Cobh), Co. Cork, to England his ship went aground, but Field survived this and the campaigns in Europe in which he took part. He was promoted to the rank of corporal, then transferred to the Royal British Regiment of Artillery as a sergeant.
In March 1796 he was stationed at Duncannon Fort, Co. Wexford, and attended a methodist service in the general's parlour; the sermon convinced him of his sinfulness, and at a subsequent love-feast in New Ross he experienced conversion. He joined the methodists in Cork, and became an effective and inspiring class leader. In 1801, when he was in charge of an army hospital at Bandon, Co. Cork, he nursed the fever victims himself, allowing no one else to undergo the danger of infection; he escaped unscathed, and his patients recovered. In 1808 he was sent to Spain with the army of Sir John Moore (qv) and participated in the retreat to Corunna. When he resigned from the army (1809) he returned to Cork, and for the next forty years was influential in Cork methodism. In his late seventies, he was in charge of four classes with a hundred members; he was an impressive figure, described by a visiting preacher as a ‘very un-everyday character’ (Crookshank, 404). A baby son died of smallpox, just as he was leaving home for Spain; his two other sons died of consumption, and his wife Mary died in 1836. He attributed his own good health to daily cold baths. Towards the end of his life he lost almost all his savings and had to live on a small army pension. He suffered a stroke on 14 November 1849, and died 9 December 1849. He was buried in St Fin Barre's churchyard, Cork. Field is remembered because of biographies based on his journals and writings, which record the experiences and beliefs, not often accessible, of an eighteenth-century soldier from a poor background.