In 1851 Alex Thom, Printer and Publisher of Dublin, produced the third edition of Lectures on Natural Philosophy by the Rev James William M’Gauley, Canon &c, Professor of Natural Philosophy and one of the Heads of the Training Department to the National Board of Education in Ireland. [The Morning Post of 9 October 1840 suggests that the first edition seems to have been in 1840: Longman, Orme & Co in London, W Curry, jun & Co in Dublin and Fraser and Crawford in Edinburgh.]
You can read the third edition of the Lectures here, paying special attention to any electro-magnetic apparatus, given that the Rev James read papers on the subject to the meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Dublin in 1835 and in Liverpool in 1837.
But I can find nothing, there or elsewhere, about his contributions to steam propulsion on canals. Several British newspapers copied this story from the Dublin Pilot in 1837:
We understand that the Rev Mr M’Gauley, of Marlborough-street, in this city, has completed a series of experiments upon a subject which for some time has occupied his attention — the application of steam to canal boats, with perfect success.
Our readers are aware that the great obstacle to the application of steam to packet boats on canals is caused by the great injury which would arise to the banks from the wave created by the paddles. He has, it seems, adopted a paddle on an altogether new principle; one of great simplicity and of such a nature that the injury to the banks shall not be greater than what is produced by the ordinary boat.
He gets rid entirely of backwater, his paddles work without noise, and require for their application a steam engine of the simplest construction.
It is said that Mr M’Gauley contemplates a velocity which to seem possible would require his working model to be understood. We hope and indeed believe, that Mr M’Gauley will not have to contend with apathy and want of enterprise in the introduction of so important an application of steam in Ireland, one which would render our canals incalculably more profitable and more useful than at present, and to give us an opportunity of consuming to advantage the turf with which so large a portion of the country is covered.
And in its issue of 29 December 1838 [No 803] the Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, & Gazette carried this story from the Dublin Post:
Steam-boats on Canals. — The Rev J W M’Gauley, Professor of Natural Philosophy to the Board of Education, we understand, has at length succeeded in fabricating a machine for propelling boats on canals without raising a surge, which has been very detrimental to the banks, causing a considerable annual outlay to keep them in repair.
The power will be derived from a steam-engine; but instead of the usual paddle-wheels, there will be a machine immerged in the water underneath the centre of the boat, the working of which will not cause the least ripple on the surface of the water. There will be a public test of the invention on the Grand Canal about a fortnight hence, with a boat fitted up under the immediate inspection of the Rev gentleman.
But I have found nothing after that: no report of the success or otherwise of the machine. I would be grateful for information from anyone who knows anything about it.
By 1840 the Rev M’Gauley’s attention had returned to electro-magnetic apparatus with a practical application. In November and December of that year several British newspapers reproduced this report from the Dublin Monitor [I take this from the Leicester Chronicle, which was so excited that it reported the news twice, on 21 November and 12 December 1840]:
Important improvement. — The Rev Professor M’Gauley, whose scientific experiments in electro-magnetism excited so much interest in the philosophic world some time ago, has communicated to some of the principal Railway Companies in England a valuable invention, which will be attended with most important results in the preservation of life and property from almost all the casualties to which they are at present subjected in railway travelling.
His object is to render the stoppage of the train entirely independent of the engine conductors; so that, should they, as was lately the case, fall asleep, get drunk, or otherwise become incapacitated for the discharge of their responsible duties, the steam can be turned off, and the train stopped, totally independent of them. The simple announcement of the object of Mr M’Gauley’s invention is sufficient to render its vast importance obvious to every man who has bestowed one moment’s thought upon the subject. We have been favoured with an examination of the invention, and consider it at once simple, ingenious, and admirably adapted to effect the desired end; its cost is trifling.
This important improvement has been submitted to the directors of some of the first lines of railway in England, to the Dublin and Kingstown and Ulster Railway Companies who are giving it their best consideration, and, we presume, will test its utility by experiment.
Addendum April 2017: could this be relevant?
More on M’Gauley (lots of variant spellings) in Wikipedia and here in a short notice at the bottom right of page 376 of The Engineer for 1 November 1867 [PDF courtesy of Grace’s Guide]. Who knew that folk left the priesthood and got married in the nineteenth century?