Vanston, Sir George Thomas Barrett (1853–1923), lawyer and civil servant, was born 31 May 1853 at Hildon House, Terenure, south Co. Dublin, second son of John Davis Vanston, solicitor, originally from Hacketstown, Co. Carlow, and his wife Catherine, daughter of George Washington Biggs of Bellevue, Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary. Educated at Kingstown School, he performed outstandingly at TCD, where he became a classical scholar and was first senior moderator and gold medallist in history, law, and political economy. He was also a senior moderator and gold medallist in classics, vice-chancellor's Latin gold medallist, and College Historical Society gold medallist in history. Called to the Irish bar in 1878, he specialised in local government law and was the author of several works on the thoroughgoing reform of the Irish local authority system at the turn of the nineteenth century. His earliest appeared in the period of transition from grand juries to elected local government that culminated in the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898. He published The grand jury laws of Ireland (1883) and The law of public health in Ireland (1892; supplement 1897; new ed. 1913); The law relating to local government in Ireland appeared in two volumes (1899, 1905) and subsequent revisions took place until 1919. He published The law relating to municipal towns in Ireland in 1900 and The law relating to municipal boroughs in Ireland in 1905.
In 1900 Vanston was appointed legal adviser to the Local Government Board for Ireland, and he held the position until the departure of the British administration in 1922. His office was at the Custom House, possibly the most significant (and vulnerable) state building after Dublin Castle. However, until the anti-government hostility which flared during the Easter rising of 1916 and consequently developed into the war of 1919–21, there was relatively little fear of physical attack on Vanston or his headquarters. He lived a regular life of diligent service to the crown, in which he found time to indulge his interests, which included gardening, cycling, and travel. He had been KC since 1908 and was knighted in February 1917.
As he was quite deaf, his most dangerous experience in the war of 1919–21 had a more comic than tragic outcome when he was caught up in the confused events of 25 May 1921 at the burning of the Custom House by the IRA. Unable to hear the commotion of the attack while he continued to work at his desk, Vanston was surprised to find himself rounded up by government troops, who cleared the building both of assailants and staff, placing them under guard outside. His genuine ignorance of the raging fire behind him convinced the officer in charge that Vanston was mentally deranged and he was released from custody. He subsequently resumed work in unenviable circumstances, with the limited salvage of office records and the board's emergency relocation to Jury's Hotel on Dame St. A few months later the Anglo–Irish treaty (6 December 1921) provided for transfer of political authority in Dublin to the semi-independent provisional government, with effect from 12 January 1922. Vanston retired from office as the Local Government Board was replaced by the new Department of Local Government and Public Health. His retirement was brief: while staying with his family at Rhosneigr on the coast of Anglesey, north Wales, he died suddenly 6 July 1923 from sunstroke, aged 71, in the village of Valley. He was buried in Dublin at Mount Jerome cemetery.
Vanston lived all his life at the family home in Terenure. He married (1899) Clementina Mary, eldest surviving daughter of Marcus Clement Sullivan, of 26 Highfield Road in the neighbouring village of Rathgar; they had two sons and two daughters.