All roads lead to Naracoorte for Jack

A career in computer programming sent Jack Jennings, owner of the Bushman's Arms Hotel, around the world, but a love for English pubs paved the way for an unlikely move to Naracoorte.
A career in computer programming sent Jack Jennings, owner of the Bushman's Arms Hotel, around the world, but a love for English pubs paved the way for an unlikely move to Naracoorte.

From Adelaide to London to Brussels to Sydney to ... Naracoorte.

It is an interesting landing spot for a bloke who spent his early 20s watching the Rolling Stones play club shows in London and working in a restaurant just a stone's throw from the European Commission.

But life works in funny ways, and that is where Jack Jennings, publican of the Bushman's Arms Hotel, has found himself for the past few decades.

Mr Jennings had no connection to the South East before he set foot in Naracoorte.

Hailing from Adelaide, Mr Jennings came from a bloodline that also included two older brothers who would go on to be a Judge and a motoring journalist.

For Mr Jennings, he was initially unsure what steps to take once High School was completed.

In the late 1960's Mr Jennings commenced his tertiary education at the University of Adelaide, enrolling in a Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer Processing, the first undergraduate degree of its kind in Australia.

He was one of approximately eight students to graduate with that degree in 1970.

Entering the workforce, stints programming at General Motors and Chrysler paved the way for Mr Jennings to jet off to England.

A uni mate suggested they head off to London and so they did.

Initially jobs were hard to come by but eventually Mr Jennings secured work with a flour milling and pet food manufacturing company.

While in the role, he would complete a code which would be used in the Y2K bug fallout.

"I wrote a program there that was involved in invoicing," he said.

"When I got there someone had half written it and left so it was my job to modify and get it going.

"My boss at the time was re-employed in 2000 as a freelancer to fix COBOL programs.

"Somehow he found out where I was in Australia and he sent me an email that he had actually worked on the program. My program was still running from 1971 in the year 2000 which absolutely staggered me."

Following a stint at an Italian bank in London, which would later turn out to be a money laundering arm for the Mafia following its closure, Mr Jennings returned to Australia and spent time working in Sydney.

After five years he grew tired of the nine to five grind and decided to pack it in and head back over to Europe.

During his time in London he developed a love for English pubs and thus sent him down a hospitality rabbit hole.

He landed in Brussels in 1980 with his partner Rhonda and began working for an "eccentric" English expatriate in a antique store-turned-wine bar just around the corner from the Berlaymont, the headquarters of the European Commission.

Once back in Adelaide, Mr Jennings fully embraced the hospitality sector and in 1984 purchased the Caledonian Hotel in North Adelaide which he would run for 15 years.

But after selling the Caledonian in 1999 and declaring he'd had enough of pubs, a chance phone call thrust him back into the industry down in the South East.

"Out of the blue someone got in touch with me, they had found out through a colleague that the Commercial Hotel, as it was known then, was looking for a manager," he said.

"Long story short I got the job to manage the Commercial for three months and that was 20 years ago.

"They were happy with what I did in the three months so they offered me a full time job. I didn't have much going on in Adelaide so, much to partner Rhonda's dismay, I said 'we're going to be in Naracoorte. She didn't even know where it was."

In 2004 Mr Jennings and good friend Peter Brien, who owns the Alberton Hotel, purchased the lease and eventually the freehold about six years ago.

The pair reverted the hotel to its original name, the Bushman's Arms as it is now known.

Though he said his time in London was a fantastic era to be around in, Mr Jennings said the move to the South East had been a great experience.