Talbot, George (1823–1914), soldier and policeman, was eldest son among five children of James Talbot, captain in the Grenadier Guards and JP of Knockmullen, Co. Wexford, and his wife, Mary, daughter of Edward Sutton of Summer Hill, Co. Wexford. He had two younger brothers, Matthew Edward and Henry John, and two sisters, Margaret Matilda and Mary Anne. His direct Talbot lineage in Wexford dated from the sixteenth century, with Spanish, Portuguese, and British military service in his ancestry. He entered the 13th (Light Infantry) Regiment in 1840, serving in the latter phase of the first Afghan war (1839–42). He received the Jellalabad and Kabul medals for the defence and recapture, respectively, of those cities in the mainly disastrous campaign of 1841–2. His appointment in 1851 to a resident magistracy in Ireland prompted his retirement from the army in 1852 with the rank of captain, a title he retained throughout his future career.
In the Westmeath disturbances of 1870 Talbot was more diligent than other officials, who were criticised for insufficient vigour in their prosecution of agrarian crime under the peace preservation act of that year. In 1871 Talbot left the magistracy to become assistant commissioner of the DMP. He was appointed chief commissioner in 1877, a post he held with increasing difficulty during the political and agrarian violence of 1879–82. He was greatly embarrassed by the sensational Phoenix Park murders of 6 May 1882, when the new chief secretary, Lord Frederick Cavendish (qv), and his under-secretary, Thomas Burke (qv) were assassinated by the Invincibles in broad daylight near the viceregal lodge.
To compound his misfortune, he experienced soon afterwards the culmination of discontent over pay and conditions among rank-and-file members of the DMP. These were influenced by the agitation among their RIC counterparts, who adopted collective action in protest against their treatment and working conditions. The result should have alerted Talbot to the risks of reacting to rather than responding to discontent. When militant DMP members met on 1 September at the Foresters’ Hall, Bolton St., Talbot summarily sacked 200, provoking a two-day police strike in Dublin, after which the dismissed men were restored to their positions on 3 September and a committee of inquiry was established within days to examine the crisis. Although he defended his mass dismissal on grounds of the men's drunkenness (a primary disciplinary offence), he and the assistant commissioner, Lt-col. John A. Conolly, VC, were forced to retire on 9 January 1883. The report of the inquiry found that a tradition of imposing alcohol-related fines on policemen had caused an accumulation of hardship and resentment in the DMP, manifested in the recent trouble, and recommended increased pay. Talbot's unreformed military-style discipline, applied to an essentially civilian and unarmed force, contributed to his replacement by another RM, David Harrel (qv), more familiar with police than with military psychology.
Florence Arnold-Forster (Florence O'Brien (qv)), niece and adopted daughter of the chief secretary, W. E. Forster (qv), on meeting Talbot recorded in her diary of October 1881 her favourable impression, but believed him devoid of emotion; she described his cool-headed demeanour and apparent capacity for the work of chief commissioner, noting his expressed views that Ireland had a better record than England in all but agrarian crime, and that ‘the really dangerous symptom’ was the declining influence of priests on the rural population (Florence Arnold-Forster's Irish journal, 259–60). As a man of his time and background, Talbot's fault may have been in following his moral imperative too closely rather than in any lack of ability to command. Retiring to his family estate of 1,341 acres in Co. Wexford, he served as a JP and was created CB (1883). He also had an address at St Clair, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath, Sussex, and was a member of St. George's yacht club, Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire). He died 30 July 1914.
Talbot married (1852) Mary, eldest daughter of Francis O'Beirne DL, JP, of Jamestown House in Co. Leitrim, by whom he had two daughters, Augusta (who died young in 1884) and Gwendoline, and one son, George James Francis (b. 1857), who became a major in the Royal Artillery, continuing the family tradition of military service.