William Joseph Plows, solicitor, farmer and amateur geologist, was educated at Wesley College, Sheffield. He came to South Africa in 1893 and practiced as a solicitor in Port Shepstone, while residing at Umhlangeni, some 10 km south-west of the town. His spare time was spent mainly on poultry farming and chess. By 1906 he was the secretary of the Port Shepstone Chess Club and a member of the Port Shepstone Rowing Club, and from about 1909 to 1916 served as secretary of the Lower Umzimkulu Agricultural Association.
In August 1911 Plows presented a lecture before the Natal Scientific Society entitled 'On the causes of glacial periods', followed in July the next year by a lecture on 'The Cretaceous System of Natal'. Both lectures were published in the Transactions and Proceedings of the Natal Scientific Society (Vol. 2(1) and Vol. 2(7) respectively). Nine years later he published a paper on 'The Cretaceous rocks of Pondoland', which was published in the Annals of the Durban Museum (1921, Vol. 3(2), pp. 58-66).
In September 1900 Plows married Sarah Beatrice Pardoe, who died in 1926.