Father John Gallivan was born in Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland on 8th February 1856.
He was ordained to the priesthood at All Hallows College Dublin on 24th June 1880. He was 24 years of age.
Fr Gallivan came to the Melbourne Archdiocese in November 1881 and was curate at Kilmore for five years.
In 1887 when Father John Gallivan was appointed to Gisborne, Sunbury was part of the Gisborne Mission. The new Gisborne Parish Priest was just thirty years of age.
In 1911 Archbishop Carr established the Parish of Sunbury with Father Gallivan as the first Parish Priest. Father Gallivan, now fifty five, took up residence in Sunbury.
Father Gallivan was transferred to Northcote in 1923 having spent thirty seven years caring for the people of Sunbury. He passed away in Northcote on 9th June 1939 and is buried in the Sunbury Cemetery. He was in his eighty fourth year.
He was held in great esteem by all. When leaving Gisborne to come to Sunbury a farewell was organised by the people of Gisborne and was attended by all the Ministers of the other denominations. The clergy of the other Churches all spoke well of him and this was widely reported in the local newspapers of the time. This was during a period in our history when Catholics were not encouraged to be involved with the other Churches.
Father Gallivan was a regular guest at Rupertswood the home of Sir William Clarke. When the Bishop attended ceremonies at Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church he travelled to Sunbury by train and Father Gallivan would meet him at the station in Sir William’s carriage and they would be conveyed to Rupertswood for lunch prior to attending to the ceremonies. On the Sunday following the sudden death of Sir William, prayers and eulogies were offered in all Churches across Melbourne, but it is reported that it was the eulogy given by Fr Gallivan in the Sunbury Church that drew the most attention.
Father Gallivan was a great entrepreneur. He was renowned for his skills in organising bazaars and concerts featuring leading entertainers. Artists were always eager to be a part of anything he organised as the events were always of a high standard. The Grand Bazaar at Easter in 1901 was an example. Lady Clarke officially opened the Bazaar and there was a great coverage of the event in the local Sunbury Newspaper.
Father Gallivan rode a horse and in the early days at Gisborne this would have been his mode of transport to Sunbury. There is a chimney on the roof of the sacristy at Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church so presumably at some stage there was a fireplace which some kind parishioner would have alight to greet Father Gallivan on his arrival from Gisborne on the cold winter mornings.
Father Gallivan visited parishioners in a horse and buggy. He travelled to Bulla for Sunday Mass at St Michaels and as there were rules of fasting from midnight before receiving the Eucharist, it would be lunchtime before he got back to Sunbury and was able to eat.
During his time in Sunbury a harmonium organ was purchased for Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church. The bell was installed in a bell tower to summon parishioners to Mass. Each day the students of Our Lady of Mt Carmel rang the bell at twelve noon for the Angelus. This was looked forward to by the people in the town as they eagerly waited for it to be rung each day as it signalled that it was time for their lunch break.
Father Gallivan was one of the officials of the Sunbury Cricket Club formed in 1897. The population of Sunbury in 1897 was 705.
A parishioner and former student of Our Lady of Mt Carmel School recalled that during heavy rain the Blind Creek near Kismet would flood and students would not be able to get across to get home. Father Gallivan used to bring his buggy and ferry the students across.
His greatest achievement was that he was instrumental in requesting that the Sisters of St Joseph come to Sunbury in 1916. He personally donated the land for the Convent.
He was held in such high esteem by the people of Gisborne that Gallivan Road in Gisborne has been named in his honour.